Duke track and field previews upcoming ACC Indoor Championships at Virginia Tech Challenge

Duke graduate student Isabel Wakefield.
Duke graduate student Isabel Wakefield.

While most of the team is focused on next week’s ACC championship, Duke had a few competitors take part in Friday’s Virginia Tech Challenge. The Blue Devils put together a solid performance in Blacksburg, Va., as another top-five program mark was posted and several personal bests were reached.

Many of Duke’s best performers, like star runners Halle Bieber and Megan McGinnis, did not compete this weekend, choosing instead to rest and prepare themselves for the following weekend’s ACC Indoor Championships in Louisville, Ky. That being said, those who did compete fared relatively well.

“[We’re] just excited to bring the team back together in a couple of weeks in Louisville for the ACC Indoor Championships,” said head coach Shawn Wilbourn. 

Pole vaulter Tyler Hrbek had a strong outing in Blacksburg, leaping to an impressive 5.25m and finishing fourth in the competition. Not only was that a personal best for the graduate student, it was also good for the fourth slot in Duke’s all-time record book. 

On the women’s side of the pole vault, sophomore Paige Sommers set a personal record. She vaulted over the fourth bar on her second attempt, setting a towering 4.22m personal best. She also finished fourth in the event. 

In the 60m hurdles, there was more good news for the Blue Devils from graduate student Emily Sloan, who came back in a big way Friday after having surgery last season. Sloan dashed a blazing 8.77-second time in the preliminary round and then proceeded to blow away her competition by 0.18 seconds in the final, winning the event and setting a personal best of 8.56 seconds. Freshman talent Falon Spearman also competed in the 60m hurdles, running a solid 9.08 seconds, which was good enough for sixth place in the event. 

Now at the end of the regular indoor season, the Blue Devils will turn their attention toward the two upcoming championship meets. The three-day ACC Indoor Championships will start Thursday, and the best performances from that meet will move on to the NCAA Indoor Championships two weeks later in Albuquerque, N.M.

At the ACC meet, the Duke women’s squad will look to defend its position as reigning ACC indoor champions, while the men will look to improve upon last year’s seventh-place finish.

“Coming off of ACCs we’ll hopefully have a good group going to the NCAA Indoor Championships,” Wilbourn said after last weekend’s action. “And the ones that don't qualify for NCAA indoors will start focusing on outdoors.”

The Blue Devils have had an excellent indoor season, smashing program records left and right and proving that they can be competitive with some of the strongest teams in the country. The biggest tests will come over the next few weeks, as the postseason meets bring a new level of competition. 

While a repeat indoor championship is the current focus for Wilbourn’s squad, his main goal is ultimately success in the upcoming outdoor season. 

“Our focus as a program is to be really good in outdoor track,” said Wilbourn. “We want to be competitive indoors, but we use it more as preparation for outdoor.”

Duke will return to action Thursday, when the championship meet kicks off in Louisville. 


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