Duke track and field continues early outdoor season by smashing program records at Raleigh Relays

Amina Maatoug stands atop the podium after winning the mile at the ACC Indoor Championships.
Amina Maatoug stands atop the podium after winning the mile at the ACC Indoor Championships.

Friday afternoon, Amina Maatoug had one of her more stellar moments on the track. For the Blue Devil junior, these come randomly — often, like this weekend, in meets right at the start of a season. This time, it was a matter of blowing her own program record in the 5000m right out of the water. She shaved more than ten seconds off of her previous best with a 15:37.38 showing that now tops the Duke all-time.

She placed third in the event, and now has the fourth-fastest 5000m time in the country.

While Duke's men’s basketball team gears up for a rematch with the Wolfpack in Dallas, the track and field team spent its weekend at the Raleigh Relays. This is the Wolfpack’s annual competition at its Paul Derr Track and Field Facility, where it hosts hundreds of athletes from dozens of schools flying and busing in from all over the country. As just the second meet of the outdoor season, Raleigh Relays was vital in getting the Blue Devils out on the asphalt and testing the track for this season’s competition.

“We showed our depth, we showed our talent and competitiveness,” said head coach Shawn Wilbourn Sunday morning.

If this weekend is any indication of future success, the Duke women should feel confident about defending their ACC title in May. They topped most of the events they entered: Senior Tina Martin took first in the women’s 100m dash and tied sophomore Abby Geiser for the current all-time program record in the event, a speedy 11.34 seconds. Geiser herself took sixth in the same event, coming in behind Martin at 11.61, while senior Halle Bieber slid over the finish line just 0.02 seconds before her to earn fourth. Another sub-12 performance from senior Maddy Doane saw four Blue Devils in the top ten of this race, which totaled 85 entries.

There was plenty to be excited about in the 400m, too. Sophomore Lauren Tolbert took second overall and first amongst collegiate competitors (true first was unattached and not a student) while her teammates Julia Jackson and Megan McGinnis finished third and fourth, respectively. Tolbert and Jackson were just milliseconds short of personal bests, and McGinnis was around two seconds off; not bad for the junior who sat out the indoor season due to injury, making Raleigh Relays just her second meet of the year.

Field athletes did just as well. Graduate athlete Tia Rozario jumped 12.77m in the triple jump, earning second at the meet and third in the Blue Devil books. MaKayla Mason’s 50.83m discus throw was also good for a second-place finish, along with a second-place spot in the record book — the best Duke has had since 2015. 

“When you look at our program as a whole, you see grad students stepping up and you see freshmen stepping up, which is a tribute to our recruiting,” Wilbourn said.

Freshman Julia Magliaro took second overall and first amongst college athletes in the javelin, throwing 50.49 for a personal best and a No. 4 spot in program history. Magliaro was one of just two athletes the Blue Devils entered in the javelin contest; it’s an event for which the women’s team doesn’t have great volume, but has apparently found great talent.

“She’s gonna be a superstar,” Wilbourn said. “Already at the top of the ACC.”

Saturday brought Duke’s favorite races and the namesake of the event: relays. As usual, the Blue Devils swept, taking first in both the 4x100m and the 4x400m, and third with their B team in the 4x400m, too. The big question for Duke’s outdoor season is a matter of who will make each relay team. The 4x400m lost Madison Mulder, part of the team that broke Duke’s program record in the relay, when her eligibility ran dry at the end of last year. Saturday, graduate transfer Skyla Wilson stepped in, but with her in the quartet, it ran more than five seconds slower than its record. Jackson, McGinnis and Tolbert have their spots locked down — it’s up to everyone else to prove their merit in early meets to join the program’s most impressive event team.

“We’re experimenting, running different people on the relays, running different orders,” Wilbourn said, “to see who is going to fit in the best spot when it comes time for the championship season.”

There is more shakeup with the 4x100m, which retains Jackson and Geiser from seasons past but is cycling through potential new members for the other two spots in the relay. With Maddy Doane and Tina Martin, the group came within a second of its all-time record — a good look for these graduate transfers.

Success didn’t come as loudly for the men’s team this weekend, though it did have its moments. Graduate student Beau Allen took second in the high jump and his classmate Marten Gasparini placed third in the javelin. Graduate Ezra Mellinger won the long jump after pulling 10th place in the 100m dash.

The crowning achievement for the Blue Devil men came on the strong shoulders of graduate students Christian Johnson and Aimar Palma Simo in the hammer throw, who threw their way to first and second places, respectively, in both the meet and the program books. In doing so, they replaced their own names: Johnson improved his best to 70.26m (a small jump from before) and Palma Simo added more than two feet of field to put his new personal best at 69.23m.

Track meets are never scored before conference competition, so Duke will keep up the work quietly until its day of reckoning in May.

The Blue Devils will stay in state to compete at the VertKlasse Meeting in High Point, N.C., next Friday and Saturday.

Sophie Levenson | Sports features editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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