The last thing that any student wants to hear in the weeks leading up to final exams is a reference to a test. But that is exactly how head coach Shawn Wilbourn described Duke’s first and only meet before the new year.
“I look at it like it’s a Pre-SAT,” Wilbourn said. “We finished our fall training and got a little test in, and now we’re going to focus on finals and winter break. Then we’re going to come back, and we’ll be ready for the real test.”
If Saturday’s performance in the Visit Winston-Salem College Kick-off was a test for the Blue Devils, they aced it. Meet records in the women’s 600-meter and women’s long jump headlined a performance in which the team combined for a total of eight first-place finishes and dominated nearly every event they entered.
It was freshman Lauren Tolbert who led the way in the 600m with a time of 1:29.83, followed closely by teammates Megan McGinnis (1:30.86) and Arianna Gragg (1:31.62). All three Blue Devils shattered the meet record of 1:31.68. Wilbourn said that he often uses this race early in the season to prepare athletes for other races, such as the 400-meter and the 800-meter.
“[Tolbert is] a star freshman that broke the meet record in the 600, and it shows us that we can expect big things from her in the 800 and the 400 once we get into the season,” Wilbourn said.
Fellow freshman Falon Spearman won a race of her own, the 60-meter hurdles, with a time of 8.65 seconds. Blue Devils finished in five of the top six spots in this race, and it was just one of the many events in which Duke blue covered the podium.
“It goes to show how well our staff has done on the recruiting trail, but also in one semester preparing them to be ready to compete at a college level,” Wilbourn said. “All the credit goes to the staff with how well the youngsters did.”
On the men’s side, Tyler Hrbek and Jonathan Horn finished first and second in pole vault, respectively, while the women’s squad claimed each of the top four spots in the event with Brynn King topping the group. Both the men’s and women’s teams finished on the podium in the 60-meter dash, with Ezra Mellinger placing second for the men and Halle Bieber and Abby Geiser finishing second and third, respectively.
The success for the title-defending women’s indoor team stretched across even more events. Gianna Locci set the meet record in the long jump with a distance of 5.99 meters, and Chinenye Agina topped the women’s high jump at 1.74 meters. Duke also finished first in the women’s 4x400-meter with a time of 3:56.01—run by Kiara Ekeigwe, Madison Dietz, Johrdyn Tarpeh and Amarachi Onuoha—and women’s weight throw, with Moorea Mitchell posting a mark of 18.6 meters.
Absent from Saturday’s meet were Duke’s distance runners. The longest any individual athlete ran was 600 meters. Coming fresh off of cross country season, Wilbourn purposefully gave athletes that compete in both sports rest ahead of another long stretch of competition.
However, sophomore Amina Maatoug did compete in the Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener in Boston. In the 3,000-meter race, she broke the Duke record with a time of 9:02.73, good for seventh in the meet.
Saturday’s success aside, the Blue Devils still have an entire meet schedule ahead of them as they look to continue their dominance from last season. After all, SAT scores matter a whole lot more than Pre-SAT scores.
“We’re hoping that them having success at the end of the fall training is going to motivate them to want to continue to train on their own during winter break knowing that they’re in a good spot,” Wilbourn said. “They don’t want to lose that fitness, they want to be ready to go when we come back in January.”
Duke will travel to Chapel Hill Jan. 14 for the Dick Taylor Challenge. The meet marks the beginning of the main stretch of their indoor season, which will culminate in March.
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