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JMU redshirt senior Alexys Taylor runs down the track.

In a final tune-up meet before hosting the CAA Championships, JMU track & field hosted the annual JMU Invitational at Sentara Park Saturday. Eight Dukes got onto the podium, including two first placers. 

Saturday morning, the javelin throwers took to the field to compete. Redshirt freshman javelin thrower Shelby Staib came in second with a mark of 43.60 meters. Staib has finished in first or second in each meet this year. Despite this, Staib said she has plenty to work on before the CAA Championships. 

“The last few weeks I’ve been going with a shorter approach because sometimes I have trouble maintaining my speed through my run-up,” Staib said. “Going into CAA’s, I’m going to be practicing moving faster and building up more momentum so I can throw farther.”

Following the javelin throwers, the pole vaulters were in action. Redshirt freshman pole vaulter Rachel Lloyd not only came in fourth, but also set a personal best and the second highest vault in program history at 3.55 meters. She said that paying attention to the circumstances, such as the wind and cooler weather, helped her make accommodations to perform to the best of her ability.

Going into the CAA Invitational, Lloyd said she’s going to listen to her body and tune her technique a little bit. Most of all, she said she’s glad everyone’s healthy going into another home meet.

“I’m really thankful … to pole vault and and [have a] chance to do it at our home track, that was really awesome,” Lloyd said. “It definitely was kind of an advantage to be where I was comfortable, and I’m looking forward to being here again for CAA’s.” 

Later in the afternoon, redshirt senior thrower Dominique Johnson celebrated senior day in tremendous fashion by placing first in the discus with a distance of 48.82 meters. Johnson said senior day, especially as a sixth-year senior, meant a lot to her. 

“It’s been a long six years, so it’s just building up and keeps building up,” Johnson said. “It means so much because your teammates are there and your family’s there, and they’re counting on you to do good and you’re counting on yourself to do good, and going into CAA’s you want to be at that point.”

Following the discus, the triple jumpers took the field at Sentara Park. In the event, redshirt junior jumper Skyla Davidson took first with a height of 12.27 meters — a personal best — and now the fifth-best mark in program history. Davidson, like Lloyd, said it was an advantage being able to compete at her home track, especially with the off-the-track logistics. 

Compounded with the home environment, Davidson said motivation from her coaches and teammates helped her perform well Saturday. She said understanding her coaches’ corrections on her jumps will be critical for improvement before the CAA meet, but overall, she’s happy with her performance but never satisfied. 

“Being so close, taking your time, not feeling like you’re on a strict schedule [and] being able to sleep in my own bed [are] things I really enjoyed,” Davidson said. “Then also it’s just a lot more fun … when we host meets.” 

Compounded with the home environment, Davidson said motivation from her coaches and teammates helped her perform well Saturday. She said understanding her coaches’ corrections on her jumps will be critical for improvement before the CAA meet, but overall, she’s happy with her performance but never satisfied. 

In the evening, freshman distance runner Miranda Stanhope competed in the 3000-meter run and finished second with a time of 9:52.87. Stanhope said she’s now preparing to run in the 5K at the CAA Championships because the 3K isn’t offered, but keeping the same attitude during her 3K run Saturday will be crucial to do well in the 5k. 

“I think one of the main things I did in the race yesterday was I tried to stay really focused throughout the whole thing instead of settling in the middle of the race which sometimes it’s easy to [do so],” Stanhope said. “I tried to just stay with the pace I started off at and respond to all the surges of people around me so whenever someone tried to pass me, I tried to catch up to them within the next few seconds.”

Other top finishers for the Dukes Saturday included four distance runners — redshirt freshman Madeleine Hesler (third out of nine in the 3000 meter steeplechase — 11:21.90), redshirt junior Maggie Linton (second out of 34 in the 800 meter dash — 2:10.33), redshirt junior Brooke Manion (fourth out of 28 in the 1500 meter run — 4:37.72), redshirt senior Caitlin Swanson (third out of 19 in the 5000 meter run — 17:40.26) and freshman jumper Paige Miller (second out of 21 in the high jump — 1.60 meters). 

JMU hosts the CAA Championships at Sentara Park in two weeks — a two-day event April 30-May 1. After the CAA meet, the NCAA Eastern Preliminaries will take place in Jacksonville, Florida. over Memorial Day weekend (May 27-30), a meet that Johnson has her sights on and if she qualifies, meets beyond that.  

“I really want to go to nationals again, at least [to] the first round,” Johnson said. “But [beyond the first round], I would love to go to Oregon — that has always been one of my goals.” The Division I outdoor track & field championships will be in Eugene, Oregon from June 9-12. 

Contact Grant Johnson at johns3gp@dukes.jmu.edu. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.