Two days. Two meets. Six school records.
On Friday and Saturday, Duke went for an East Coast takeover, splitting up the squad across the BU Valentine Invitational in Boston and the Tiger Paw Invitational in Clemson S.C. Versatility was the name of the game as the Blue Devils set new program records in almost every event group, led by none other than junior distance phenom Amina Maatoug.
“Every week she just impresses us more and more,” said head coach Shawn Wilbourn after the meet. “[We’re] really excited for the NCAA Championships.”
In her 2024 racing debut at the Valentine Invitational, Maatoug smashed her own school record, this time in the women’s mile. Among 317 other competitors, the Leiden, Netherlands, product placed an impressive fourth, clocking a time of 4:29.22, good for the fourth-fastest time in the NCAA. What’s more, after surpassing her personal best by almost three seconds, Maatoug is forever a member of sub-4:30-miler club, an achievement coveted by all aspiring female middle-distance runners.
Not to be shadowed, senior Austin Gabay showed up for the Blue Devil men the next day, breaking the program record in the 3000m by almost a whole second. In an event that requires 15 laps of straight focus, Gabay held on admirably, running 7:58.94 for 23rd place in a stacked field of pros and collegiates.
“As we're approaching the championship season, the cream is rising to the top,” Wilbourn said.
Right on the money. On Saturday afternoon in Boston, graduate student MaKayla Mason was on fire. Only one week after a three-foot personal best that bettered her No. 2 throw in program history, the shot-put star went ahead and one-upped herself again. With a mark of 17.38m, Mason placed third overall and demolished a 12-year-old school record by almost two feet, cementing her place atop the Duke charts.
Down south at the Rock Norman Track & Field Complex in Clemson, spirits were just as high.
For the second week in a row, the Blue Devils watched in awe as both their men’s and women’s weight throw records fell. Graduate student Christian Johnson took off yet again, sending a weight spiraling 21.92m, bettering his No. 1 mark for the third time this season. Not far behind in distance, freshman Christian Toro churned away to 20.30m to outdo his own third-place spot in the Duke record books.
In the women’s weight throw, senior Moorea Mitchell came into the day with a fire lit under her following graduate teammate Zoe Waddell’s school record the weekend prior. Despite upending the program record on just her second try, Mitchell kept going, cementing her spot with a toss of 20.50m on her fifth attempt. Almost three feet beyond her previous best, the mark was good for bronze overall. Alongside Mitchell, Waddell placed eighth in the invitational section, lobbing a personal best of 19.86m — a new school record had Mitchell not performed so well on the day.
“We have a higher level,” Wilbourn said of the throwers. “Competition amongst each other in practice makes for great performances on the weekends.”
Great performances indeed. Come day two of the Tiger Paw, graduate sprinter Ezra Mellinger helped push the weekend’s record total to six via a personal best of 21.21 seconds in the 200m. After lacing up his long-jump spikes the day before, Mellinger turned out a solid improvement of his own school record on the track, dashing his way to a top-20 finish.
The women’s sprinters saw similar success, headlined by Tina Martin, who clocked 23.59 seconds to slot herself ahead of all but one performer in Duke history. Meanwhile, sophomore Julia Jackson went two-for-two in the program record books, starting with a 52.74-second fly through the 400m race, good for a top-10 finish and No. 3 all-time mark. Not long afterwards, Jackson joined sophomore Lauren Tolbert, graduate student Maddy Doane and Martin in the 4x400m relay, leading them off to a season-best time of 3:35.04 and fifth all-time in program lore.
Next weekend, the Blue Devils will split up one last time before the ACC Championships, back to Boston for the BU Terrier DMR Challenge and out to Blacksburg, Va., for the Virginia Tech Challenge.
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