When it is the first race of the season, breaking your own school record isn’t usually what you might expect. Unless you’re junior distance phenom Amina Maatoug.
Up North in Boston Saturday, Maatoug raced to a third-place finish in the 3000m women's race at the Sharon Colyear-Danville season opener, lowering her own school record by almost nine seconds in the process. Her time of 8:46.89 is now seventh all-time in collegiate indoors.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” Maatoug said after the race. “You have to perform when it matters.”
Perform she did. As the Blue Devils’ sole entrant in a meet that saw multiple NCAA records fall, Maatoug never faltered. Despite this being her first track race back since June, Maatoug took it in stride, working her way up from a less-than-ideal start to close out her last 400 meters in a blistering 66 seconds and clinch third place at the end of lap 15.
In indoor track, each lap is only 200 meters long, half the size of a typical outdoor track. With shorter straightaways and shorter curves, racing indoors can be quite the experience, especially at the longer distances.
“Because the laps are so small, you kind of get lost where you are,” Maatoug said. “[You’re] just running and then you hear someone scream ‘three laps to go!’ and you're like, ‘oh, three laps to go!’”
In Saturday’s race, Maatoug proved once again that she can compete, no matter how stacked the field is. WIth her time of 8:46.89, she finished two places ahead of Adidas pro Anna Camp Bennett, and less than a tenth of a second behind Harvard’s Maia Ramsden, the 2021 and 2023 NCAA 1500m champions, respectively.
As she looks to race some fast miles and 1500s throughout her junior track campaign, Maatoug knows that one good performance early on doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the season ahead.
“But,” she said, “it definitely gives me some confidence going into other races, that I can just run with girls like that, and compete with them.”
Back home, the remaining members of the Duke team got to work in an intrasquad Blue-White scrimmage, testing their skills in a low-pressure yet nevertheless competitive environment. Athletes faced off in a variety of events, ranging from a 325m sprint to the javelin throw. The Blue team won.
Maatoug and the rest of the Blue Devils’ track and field team return to the track Jan. 13, hoping to start the new year with a bang at the JDL Mondo College Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C.
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