Duke was not taking any losses this weekend.
The Blue Devils took a quick road trip to Winston Salem, N.C., Friday and Saturday to compete in the Camel City Invitational. A crowd of teams joined Duke at the JDL Fast Track, ranging from local rivals N.C. State and Wake Forest to schools like Pittsburgh. Though Duke only entered a handful of athletes in events for the meet, it turned out to be a handful powerful enough to break another school record, clock six top-three finishes and reinforce confidence heading into ACC Indoor Championships later this month.
“The goals that we went into this weekend with, we accomplished. Obviously, Amina [Maatoug] in the mile was the highlight of the weekend,” head coach Shawn Wilbourn said Sunday.
The highlight to which Wilbourn refers is the breaking of another school record—the seventh one Duke has broken this season—by sophomore distance star Amina Maatoug. The Leiden, Netherlands, native finished second in the women’s elite mile race, coming in less than a second behind Addy Wiley of Huntington University. Crossing the finish line in a brisk 4:32.54, Maatoug put herself at the top of Duke women’s track history, above a record that had held for 12 years.
“You know, [Maatoug's] very impressive. And we’re just happy and thrilled that we have her on our team,” said Wilbourn.
More than one record was broken over the course of the weekend. On the field, senior Brynn King cracked her own personal best in the women’s pole vault, clearing the 4.25-meter bar. This performance also marked the fourth time this season that King has won the women’s pole vault.
“She improves almost every week. So each week she's jumping a little bit higher,” said Wilbourn of King. “And that bodes well as we near ACCs and I believe she has the ability to qualify for the indoor NCAA championships as well.”
Graduate student Tyler Hrbek earned similar results in the men’s pole vault, placing first overall with a clean five-meter vault. This showing marked the third time this season that Duke has won the men’s pole vault.
In hurdles, it was another victorious day for the Blue Devil women. Former Duke runner Cha'Mia Rothwell, who competed individually for the weekend, placed first in the 60m hurdles; right behind her was graduate student Isabel Wakefield, whose 8.42-second finish put her at the top of collegiate competitors.
“[Wakefield] has the fastest time right now [in the] ACC … that’s an event that Izzy is capable of winning,” said Wilbourn, who feels confident in Wakefield’s prospects at the championship meet.
For the men on the track, the weekend was all about pushing limits. Senior Connor Wells showcased his abilities in the 3000m race, finishing ninth out of more than 85 runners and clocking a time of 8:18.36—his new personal best. Behind him, coming in at No. 27, was his graduate teammate Will Dixon, who ran this distance for the first time and finished in 8:30.14.
Sophomore Max Forte tried a new event, too: He took part in the 60m hurdles for the first time. Though he usually sticks to field events like the long and triple jump, Wilbourn is having him try his foot at hurdling, too. He finished ninth in the preliminary race, out of more than 20 competitors—not quite speedy enough to qualify for the final race, but certainly indicative of his potential.
“He’s gonna be a great hurdler down the road,” Wilbourn said of Forte.
“Down the road” is certainly where the track team is headed. In a few short weeks, the Blue Devils will be back at the ACC Indoor Championships, where the women will have an opportunity to defend their indoor conference title and the men will battle to place in the top five.
Before the conference finals, though, Wilbourn has some fine-tuning to do with his runners, throwers and jumpers. The team will split into two Friday and Saturday to make appearances at both Clemson for the Tiger Paw Invitational and Vanderbilt for the Music City Challenge.
“It'll be our final tune-up with the majority of the team before ACCs,” said Wilbourn. “Our goal there is to … just get some final tune-up and technical things worked out under high competition and high stress.”
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