Martin, Palma Simo, Duke track and field power through inclement weather at Miami Collegiate Invitational

Megan McGinnis finished in the top three in the 400m.
Megan McGinnis finished in the top three in the 400m.

As the southernmost state of the Lower 48, Florida is infamous for its unusual weather, especially within the tropical climate around the south of the state. In 2022, the city of Miami ranked third in the United States for yearly precipitation averages.

Saturday at the Miami Collegiate Invitational in Coral Gables, Fla., that tendency reared its ugly head, with inclement weather causing a prolonged delay. However, Duke’s track and field team wasn’t fazed, earning several standout performances in its outdoor opener, which included nine top-five finishes and multiple entries into the Blue Devil record books.

“I think it was a solid opener … the kids competed well, the energy was good,” said assistant coach Mark Mueller. “We had a long rain delay, but I feel like [the athletes] responded well … they didn’t let that affect them too much.”

The women’s team garnered several standout performances in the sprints. In the 100m dash, graduate student Tina Martin earned a fourth-place finish, while fellow graduate Halle Bieber bested Hurricanes runner Sophia Haag by 0.007 seconds to finish seventh in the event. Martin replicated her success in the 200m with a first-place time of 23.4, headlining a Blue Devil cohort with seven top-15 finishes in the event. Meanwhile, the 400m race saw a pair of top-three finishes by junior Megan McGinnis and sophomore Lauren Tolbert; the latter won the event with a time of 53.08.

“It was a solid opener for McGinnis,” Mueller said. “She’s coming back from injury, so [it was] good for her to get some races back in there.” He also complemented Martin and Tolbert’s finishes as “solid marks.”

Perhaps the crowning achievement of the day for both teams was the women’s 4x100m relay. Graduate student Maddy Doane and junior Abby Geiser linked up with Bieber and Martin to win the event with a time of 44.16, good for fourth all-time in Duke history. Mueller noted that the Duke’s showing was the fastest-ever for the program at an outdoor opener, and also led the ACC.

The women’s team also excelled in the field events. In her Duke debut, freshman Gemma Tutton won the pole vault with a 4.30m finish. Additionally, the long jump saw three Blue Devils — junior Gianna Locci, graduate student Tia Rozario and senior Brianna Smith — earn top-five placements. 

Meanwhile, the men’s team saw strong success in throwing events, particularly in the hammer. Graduate students Aimar Palma Simo and Christian Johnson earned first- and second-place finishes in the event, while freshman Christian Toro notched a fifth-place showing. These throwers earned the top-3 all-time spots in Duke history in the hammer event, with Simo’s 70.03m (229-9 feet), breaking the previous program high by 27 feet.

The men’s javelin also proved a high mark for Duke Saturday. Graduate students Marten Gasparini and Joseph DiDario garnered third- and fourth-place finishes with throws of 71.1m and 64.8m, respectively. Freshman Matt Prebola rounded out the top-five with a 63.94m finish.

The men’s team proved a little quieter in the races, only fielding a few runners. Still, graduate student Ezra Mellinger delivered a standout performance in the 200m dash, winning the event with a personal-best 20.78. Senior Alejandro Rodriguez performed well in the 400m, earning a time of 48.06 to eke out a fifth-place finish. 

“That’s definitely one of the top highlights,” said Muller about Mellinger’s race. Muller added how Mellinger “beat the record-holder of the indoor [400m dash],” referring to Georgia runner Christopher Morales Williams. “That was a really big run.”

After its rainy yet successful showing in Coral Gables, Duke returns to North Carolina to start the Raleigh Relays Thursday, where once again, the weather looks to be dreary to kick off the event. Nevertheless, the Blue Devils proved over the weekend that regardless of outdoor conditions, they can compete — and win.


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