Records continue to fall for Duke track and field at Music City Challenge, Tiger Paw Invitational

Duke's women's 4x400m relay team at the Tiger Paw Invitational.
Duke's women's 4x400m relay team at the Tiger Paw Invitational.

“Divide and conquer” has been a popular mantra for many leaders throughout history. Julius Caesar famously used it in his conquest of Gaul, and this weekend, Duke’s track and field squads used the same approach in competition. 

The team split its talents between two meets Friday and Saturday, sending the distance runners to the Vanderbilt-hosted Music City Challenge and its sprinters, jumpers and field athletes to Clemson’s Tiger Paw Invitational. That being said, all the new top program marks were set in South Carolina. As has been a common theme throughout this year’s indoor season, the Blue Devils smashed several more program records across the weekend.

The first record to fall came Friday at the hands of senior runner Halle Bieber, who ran a blazing 7.41-second 60m dash in the preliminary round, breaking her previous school record by .02 seconds. The record-breaking continued from there, as freshman Lauren Tolbert and sophomore Megan McGinnis destroyed the previously-held women’s 400m marks, jumping up into the top two spots in Duke’s history. Tolbert led the way in 52.59 seconds, and McGinnis was not far behind with her 52.67-second result. 

Bieber ended up setting two new school records. The latter came Saturday afternoon at Clemson, where she ran an impressive 23.66-second time in the 200m sprint and beat Kethlin Campbell’s 23.71-second time from 2018. 

Bieber even played a role in another top-five performance on the weekend. The Blue Devil 4x400m relay squad of Bieber, McGinnis, Tolbert and freshman Julia Jackson ran a blazing 3:32.70 combined, a mark good enough for second all-time in Duke history and No. 14 in the NCAA this year. 

In the long jump, it was two more top-five program numbers for the Blue Devils. For the men, it was sophomore Max Forte, who jumped an impressive 7.26m, improving on his previous No. 5 mark. On the women’s side, graduate student Isabel Wakefield leaped to increase the distance on her No. 4 all-time mark to 6.20m. 

The Tiger Paw was one of the best meets in the country this weekend, playing host to some of the best talent in the country. 

“[The Tiger Paw] was a great tune-up for us and also just a great confidence booster for our young team to be able to go in and compete with the Texases of the world, the USCs,” said head coach Shawn Wilbourn. “Just to get that experience and that exposure in that environment will definitely help our team going into ACCs.”

Meanwhile in Nashville, Tenn., it was a weekend of solid performances from both the men and the women. Graduate student James Lee recorded his second sub-four-minute mile of the season, lowering both his personal record and Duke’s second all-time mark to 3:59.02. He still sits more than three seconds behind the first spot on the list, Nick Dahl’s 3:55.89 performance in 2022. On the women’s side, Graduate student Karly Forker had a career day, notching a 4:39.21 mile time and claiming her spot as the fourth-fastest women’s mile in program history. 

“We had some good performances there from our distance crew, and just excited to bring the team back together in a couple of weeks in Louisville for the ACC Indoor Championships,” said Wilbourn. 

In the 5000m run, it was yet another top-five spot in the men’s record books. Seniors Chris Theodore and Owen Mackenzie placed fourth and fifth, respectively, and Theodore’s 13:59.26 time was good enough for the third spot in the team’s all-time record book. 

After a busy weekend for both the men and the women in Tennessee and South Carolina, the Blue Devils are looking ahead. There is one more week of regular-season indoor competition before the ACC championship meet, and Wilbourn plans to keep his top athletes well-rested and healthy in preparation for the crunch of the postseason. 

“Coming off ACCs we’ll hopefully have a good group go into the NCAA Indoor Championships,” said Wilbourn. “And the ones that don't qualify for NCAA indoors, they'll start focusing on outdoors.”

The Blue Devils will return to action next weekend, when the squad will once again split in two as some athletes head to Blacksburg, Va., for the Virginia Tech Challenge and others hit the road to Winston-Salem, N.C., for the JDL DMR Invitational. 


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