It’s been a goal of Brittany Aveni and her Duke University 4X400 teammates to reach the 2019 Division I Track and Field Outdoor National Championships since advancing last year.

There have been challenges in the 2019 season, but the Geneva graduate has accomplished that mission.

Aveni, along with seniors India Lowe and MacKenzie Kerr and sophomore Lauren Hoffman, are headed to Austin, Texas for the nationals this week.

“We had one shot,” said Aveni, a junior. “We had to focus on our training and were able to put it together.”

The quartet qualified on the final day — in the second-to-final race — of the NCAA East Preliminary Round Outdoor Championships in Jacksonville, Florida on May 25. 

Running in the third heat, the Blue Devils finished in a time of 3:32.84, which was the third-best time in Duke outdoor history. It was the top finish among Atlantic Coast Conference runners in the field of 24.

Duke was in second for most of the race before Aveni took the lead with 100 meters to go. Each member of the 4x400 posted splits in 53-second range for each of their 400 legs. Aveni’s split on the final leg was 52.37. The Blue Devils won their heat. The top 12 advanced to the nationals.

The Blue Devils are scheduled to run their semifinal race at 10:18 p.m. June 6 in lane 6 of the third heat. The top eight advance to the 7:51 p.m. June 8 final.

Duke has the 11th best time entering the nationals. South Carolina has the fastest seed time at 3:28.17.

Reaching this point wasn’t easy for the Blue Devils.

During the outdoor season, Lowe missed about a month with an injury, which put a hold on the quartet’s training and continuity.

“The last time we ran together was in early April,” Aveni said. “India’s our first runner.”

The good news is that other members of the team stepped in at various points.

“We’ve qualified in the 4X400 the last six years, so anyone capable of running the 400 is looked at on the 4X400,” Aveni said. “It’s movitation for the girls to be on that team. It’s awesome the experience they get for next year.”

Lowe eventually returned.

“She ran a great first leg,” Aveni said of the NCAA East Preliminary race.

There are two difference for Aveni this year heading into the nationals.

The first is she one of 10 Duke female student-athletes going to Austin.

“The big difference is the amount of girls going,” she said. “We have a large group going. The experience of going is going to motivate them to try and reach again next year.”

The second is the addition of Hoffman to the 4X400 team. Aveni, Kerr and Lowe were on last season’s 4X400 team that just missed out on a top-eight finish in the semis. Hoffman has taken over for Maddy Price.

In addition to her 4X400 duties, Aveni also took part in the open 800 during the East Preliminary Round. She posted 27th in a time of 2:07.14 on May 23. The top 24 advanced to the national tournament.

“I put in a lot of good training,” Aveni said. “I don’t think I’ve run slower than 2:08. I have to focus and trust my training. It’ll come eventually.”

Aveni ran the 800 that night. Earlier in the day, her sister, Bri, competed in the Division III National Outdoor Championships for Mount Union at Spire Institute and claimed seventh in the pole vault to reach the podium and collect all-american honors.

“I’m so happy for her,” Aveni said. “For her to see those results is amazing.”

Likewise, Aveni is hoping for a chance to place as well. The Blue Devils put themselves in good position with their regional quarterfinal run, but Aveni knows each team that qualified is good and anything can happen once the start gun goes off.

“It comes down to the race that day,” she said. “We have to put it out there and race.”

 

 

in Jacksonville, Fla.

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