Duke track and field preps for ACC Outdoor Championships with Joe Hilton InvitationalWith the momentum of an explosive indoor season and one school record after another falling outdoors, the Blue Devils are off to the strongest start to the outdoor season in recent memory.
Entering the Joe Hilton Invitational—the final meet before the ACC Outdoor Championships next weekend— Duke will look to finalize its impressive conference roster for a run at the conference title.
“I’m very, very impressed in that we’re a very balanced team and we’re getting contributions from all different event areas,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said.
For outdoor competition, the Blue Devils will not need to hit qualifying standards to earn a spot on the ACC roster. They will compete for spots within the team. Duke may send a maximum of six athletes per event and one relay to Chapel Hill next weekend.
This weekend's single-day meet at the same facility as the conference championships will provide the Blue Devils with the opportunity to tune up on technique and preview competition conditions for the big weekend.
Narrowing Duke’s roster just a few weeks after the first meet of the outdoor season may prove to be difficult for the coaching staff.
“We have more potential qualifiers already than maybe we were expecting, so we've raised the bar a little bit,” Ogilvie said.
Times and scores from the indoor season will likely also factor into final roster decisions. Some athletes, like redshirt senior Curtis Beach, have not competed in their championship events yet this outdoor season.
Beach was crowned NCAA Indoor Heptathlon Champion just a month ago in Albuquerque, N.M. Although he did not take a break from competition between championship meets, he has not completed a full decathlon this year. Despite only finishing one day’s slate of events at the Texas Relays in late March, Beach will be the most dangerous of Duke's multi-event athletes come postseason.
In addition to Beach, sophomore Megan Clark also figures to have already solidified her place on the championship roster with a school-record-breaking performance.
At the Carolina Relays at the beginning of the outdoor season, Clark surpassed former Olympian Jillian Swartz’s record in the pole vault by more than five inches. Easily clearing 14 feet, 7 1/4 inches, Clark asserted herself among the nation’s top pole vaulters and will be poised to attempt 15 feet in the coming week.
At the outdoor ACC Championships last year, the Blue Devils took home fifth place on the men’s side and tied for fourth with Virginia on the women’s side. The women finished just six points behind third-place N.C. State. Once Duke’s bolstered roster is finalized after this weekend’s performances, the Blue Devils will have a strong chance at jumping up the leaderboard next weekend.
Last year’s total of 66 points on the men’s side was far behind fourth-place North Carolina’s tally of 113, but this year Duke will look to close the gap and assert itself as a strong program in the conference.
“Based off the last two weekends, Duke outdoor track and field has never been in a better place than we are right now, and it’s a lot of fun,” Ogilvie said.