As the bow gets tied on 2023, The Chronicle’s sports department is reviewing the biggest storylines in Duke athletics throughout the year. Each day until the calendar flips to January, we will cover two of the most significant moments in Blue Devil sports from 2023.
Coming in at No. 6: After a disappointing end to the indoor season, Duke track and field's women's team exploded in the outdoor season, taking home the program's first outright ACC Championship title — and by a record margin. For the full list, click here.
Two words: total dominance.
After their narrow loss to Virginia Tech at ACC indoors, the women of Duke track and field came back with a roaring vengeance in May, shattering the ACC Outdoor Championship record with 145.5 points — a whopping 61 points ahead of the runner-up Hokies. Over the course of the three-day event at N.C. State’s Paul Derr Track and Field Facility, the Blue Devils as a whole brought home 21 medals and 35 All-ACC honors on the way to the women’s second and first outright ACC Outdoor Championship title.
“I'm really proud of the team,” head coach Shawn Wilbourn said after the meet. “Not for just breaking the scoring record, but for how we did it.”
The weekend was rife with record-book marks and fast races from the Duke women, headlined by none other than sophomore sprinter Megan McGinnis. After the baton drop heard ‘round the world in the final leg of the indoor ACC 4x400m relay final, McGinnis was up for redemption and didn’t hesitate.
First in the 400m, McGinnis added to her indoor title with its outdoor counterpart, clocking a blazing personal best of 51.43 seconds, good for first-team honors and a new school record.
From there, the Roanoke, Va., native didn’t slow down, taking second helpings with a runner-up finish — and another personal best — for 200m. Her time of 22.99 seconds registers as No. 2 Duke all time.
And even without the 400m school record-holder in their lineup, the Blue Devils’ 4x400m relay team of senior Carly King, freshman Lauren Tolbert, graduate student Madison Mulder and freshman Julia Jackson got it done in the last event of the weekend. Right on the heels of Miami until the end, the foursome ran their way to a silver medal in 3:29.95 — the third-fastest time in school history.
“There were only four events in the entire meet that we didn't score in,” Wilbourn said. “That’s exactly what we've been preaching — team track and field.”
Team track and field it was. In the sprints, the Duke women showed up and showed out. While sophomore Abby Geiser scored a silver in the 100m race, senior Halle Bieber went two for two with a pair of bronze medals. With personal bests of 11.35 seconds for 100m and 23.01 for 200m, Bieber etched her name in the program record books for second and third all-time in the events respectively. Likewise, graduate student Isabel Wakefield ended the meet with third-place finishes in both the long jump and the 100m hurdles, lowering her No. 3 all-time program mark to 13.24 seconds in the process.
Beyond the short sprints, the Blue Devils demonstrated their range with hardware all around the field, whether it be graduate student Chinenye Agina with bronze in high jump or junior Brianna Smith with bronze in heptathlon. In the javelin throw, the podium was more Duke blue than anything else, thanks to graduate throwers Dana Baker and Ilhame Tamrouti, who captured the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
But that wasn’t all. It wasn’t until the 1500m final on the last day that the Blue Devils first tasted the top berth of the team rankings, when sophomore Amina Maatoug streaked her way to a silver medal and eight points with another personal best of 4:15.75, the fifth-best in Duke history. By the end of the night, the Blue Devil women had snagged 16 medals, 25 all-ACC honors and a meet-record 145.5 points.
Despite falling short, the men weren’t without standout performances of their own. Graduate pole vaulter Tyler Hrbek clinched Duke’s second individual win of the meet with a vault of 5.33m and graduate student Robbie Otal threw his way to silver in the discus, leading the men to eighth-place finish.
“We're building the culture and you're starting to see the results," Wilbourn said after the meet.
The results kept coming.
One month later, Wilbourn, eventually named ACC and USTFCCCA Southeast Region Women’s Coach of the Year, ended up sending 16 athletes — 13 from the women’s side — to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas, to compete across 13 different events. There, the Blue Devil women ended their campaign on a strong note, tallying two USTFCCCA All-America first-team honors (5000m and 4x400m relay) and four second-team distinctions (400m, high jump, javelin and long jump). In the fall, Maatoug kept the fire lit, blazing her way to a ninth-place finish at NCAAs to cap off a stellar cross country season.
As 2024 swiftly approaches, the Blue Devils look toward another successful track and field campaign, starting out Jan. 13 at the JDL Mondo College Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C. With the help of new faces and reliable returners like McGinnis, the Duke women will not be stepping off the gas.
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