Duke track and field hopes to keep early season momentum going at ACC ChampionshipsWith records falling right and left, Duke is setting itself up to have the most impressive season in recent memory with its first championship test starting Thursday.
Following a superb opening month of outdoor competition, expectations will be high for the Blue Devils when they travel to Chapel Hill for ACC Championships. Last year, Duke tied for fourth with Virginia on the women’s side and took fifth on the men’s side. With Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse joining the conference, the Blue Devils have realistic expectations for their team finish in this year’s deeper field.
“I think a top-three finish for the women is doable,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “On the men’s side, we are looking for a top-five finish. For both teams, if everything clicks and we have a great day from everybody, we could challenge for the win. But with a 15-team league, it is extremely competitive, and a few points could make a difference.”
Redshirt senior decathlete Curtis Beach, graduate student long distance runner Juliet Bottorff and sophomore pole vaulter Megan Clark will enter the meet as the top seeds in their events.
Beach has claimed national titles in the indoor heptathlon in 2012 and earlier this season in March. He placed as high as second in the NCAA Outdoor Championships decathlon in 2011, but the redshirt senior has yet to taste gold in the decathlon, something he will look to change this weekend in his final showing at ACC Championships.
“He wants to go out with that title,” Ogilvie said. “He will be pushed by two of his teammates, Robert Rohner and Ian Rock, and we expect to score a lot of points in the men’s decathlon, hopefully with three guys finishing in the top four.”
Also entering her final ACC meet for Duke, Bottorff will look to earn another 10,000-meter ACC Championship title after her conference victory and first-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2011.
This weekend, Clark will have another look at 15 feet—a mark she almost overcame at the Carolina Relays to open the outdoor season. With her personal best vault of 14 feet, 7 1/4 inches, the sophomore will enter the meet as the top seed, closely followed by Martina Schultze of Virginia Tech.
“It won’t be a layup for Megan, but hopefully great competition will push her to great heights,” Ogilvie said. “Hopefully if the weather is good and conditions are right, she could take a serious stab at 15 feet. She’s that good.”
Throughout the course of the outdoor season, the Blue Devils have shown their strength across the disciplines.
The men’s distance runners—including Brian Atkinson, Mike Moverman and Nate McClafferty—could make strong runs for top-three finishes in the 10,000 meters, 5,000 meters and the mile.
The women’s sprint relays, led by Elizabeth Kerpon and Lauren Hansson, also hope to contribute big points to Duke’s team score.
With all disciplines of the Blue Devil program hitting their stride this weekend, Duke could assert itself among the top track and field programs in the conference.
“I hope they’ve gotten caught up in the hype of the season so far,” Ogilvie said. “The success that we have had early in the spring should get people excited and give them confidence going into the meet that we can compete with anybody. Despite this being a great conference with powerhouse programs, we can definitely hold our own with them.”