Duke track and field sweeps men's decathlon at ACC ChampionshipsDuke had never won a conference decathlon title prior to this weekend. The Blue Devils atoned for this by sweeping the podium at the ACC Champioships.
Robert Rohner, Ian Rock and Curtis Beach helped the Blue Devils to a fourth-place finish at the three-day meet in Chapel Hill. Duke brought home four individual ACC titles and eight podium finishes to continue an impressive outdoor season.
The Blue Devils had hoped to bring in a lot of points with strong finishes in the decathlon but did not expect Rohner and Rock to outscore Beach, the event favorite and 2014 NCAA Indoor Heptathlon champion.
“It was a great couple of days,” associate head coach Shawn Wilbourn said. “I thought we could go 1-2-3. The way they finished is not exactly how I expected. But we got the sweep. Those guys competed hard both days.”
Rohner opened an impressive first day with a win in the 100-meter sprint, crossing the line in 10.73 seconds. Three-tenths of a second behind Rohner, Beach finished in third. But the redshirt senior grabbed the lead from Rohner with a decisive win in the long jump, clearing 23 feet, 10 3/4 inches, nearly a foot and a half further than Rohner in second place.
But Beach fell back in the shot put and high jump, taking ninth in the shot put with a throw of 36 feet, 4 3/4 inches and seventh in the high jump with a mark of 6 feet.
Rohner placed third in both events to reclaim and then extend his lead. Clearing all earlier heights on his first attempts, he finished the high jump with a mark of 6 feet, 2 1/4 inches.
The Blue Devils swept first through fourth in the 400 meters, the final event of Thursday evening. Rohner claimed his second win of the decathlon, crossing the line in 48.62 seconds. He had teammates right behind him, as Beach, freshman Chaz Hawkins and Rock all finished in less than 50 seconds, the only competitors to break that time.
At the end of the first day of competition, Rohner was comfortably in first with 3,930 points, and Beach sat in second with 3,784 points. Rock, who had steadily finished in the top eight in all five of the day’s events, was in seventh place.
“I had a good first day,” Rohner said. “I wasn’t expecting it coming in… I just took care of my events and it worked out for me.”
Rohner and Beach continued to trade the lead in Friday’s events.
After a false start in the 110-meter hurdles, Beach ran the event in 15.51 seconds, good for third place. Rohner took ninth with a time of 16.18 seconds and Rock placed fifth with a personal-best 15.62 seconds.
Rohner reclaimed his lead with a strong performance in the discus, turning in a mark of 124 feet, 6 inches for second place. Rock earned seventh with his throw of 107 feet, 9 inches and Beach fell behind with his throw of 106 feet, 8 inches for eighth place.
Rock surged up the leaderboard with three events to go by claiming a win in the pole vault. Besting the competition by nearly a foot, the junior cleared 16 feet, 6 3/4 inches. Beach took fourth with a mark of 14 feet, 7 1/4 inches, with Rohner clearing a foot less for seventh place.
After placing second in the javelin with a mark of 177 feet, 8 inches, Rock had quickly climbed from seventh place to second overall with one event left. Rohner took third in the javelin, throwing 176 feet, 1 inch and setting himself up for a first-place overall finish.
The javelin proved to be Beach’s downfall. Finishing at the back of the pack with a throw of 106 feet, 7 inches, the redshirt senior was troubled by an elbow injury, which had kept him from throwing the javelin since last year’s NCAA Outdoor Championships.
“I hurt it on my third attempt,” Beach said. “The first two were just really bad throws because I hadn’t thrown it in forever. So I really tried to crank it on the last one.”
The deficit was too much for Beach to make up in the 1,500 meters, his best event. Leading another Blue Devil sweep by 24 seconds, Beach earned 830 points with a time of 4:17.32 but could not pass his teammates on the leaderboard. Rock and Rohner finished behind Hawkins for third and fourth place, respectively. Rohner solidified his victory with a time of 4:42.48 and 7,233 total points.
“It was an impressive performance by Robert, who was just a sprinter in high school," Wilbourn said. "He’s learning all of these events and rapidly picking them up. I knew he was going to be really good. He’s wired for it.”
Rock earned the silver with 7,122 points and Beach the bronze with 6,997 points.
Duke claimed three more ACC titles throughout the course of the weekend.
Graduate student Juliet Bottorff became the first Blue Devil to win the 10,000 meters at the conference meet. Holding a steady pace behind Florida State’s Hannah Walker for the majority of the race, Bottorff pulled away in the final 800 meters. Crossing the line in 32:53.72, she set a new course record and bested Walker by nearly three seconds.
“It’s relieving,” Bottorff said. “It’s a lot of pressure. You haven’t won it until you’ve won. It feels really good to get it done and complete the triple-crown, winning my third ACC Championship. It just means a lot. I’m really excited about it.”
Bottorff returned to the track Saturday for the 5,000 meters but was unable to reel in Sarah Rapp of Virginia Tech, who jumped out to an early lead. Finishing in 16:15.82, Bottorff settled for the silver.
Freshman Haley Meier continued the success of the women’s distance program with a victory in the mile. Covering the first 800 meters conservatively, Meier picked up the pace in her final two laps, pulling ahead of a tightly-packed field with a 62-second final lap. She finished in a final time of 4:30.33, nearly seven-tenths of a second ahead of Elizabeth Whelan of North Carolina.
"I knew coming in here it would be a stacked field," Meier said. "I tried to get out strong and slow the race down at the beginning… When the last lap hit everyone started going. I composed myself, told myself, 'Stay here, wait until the 200 and think like a sprinter,' and then I tried to hold on, all the way to the line."
Redshirt sophomore Thomas Lang claimed Duke’s final victory against a tight field in the javelin.
Sitting in third place behind Pittsburgh's Ethan Shalaway and North Carolina’s Houston Summers before his final throw, Lang drew on the support of the crowd for a personal-best mark to close out the competition. His throw of 229 feet, 1 inch earned Lang the fourth ACC javelin title in school history.
Megan Clark also earned a spot on the podium with her third-place finish in the pole vault. The sophomore cleared 14 feet, 1/2 inches, putting her four inches behind champion Martina Schultze of Virginia Tech.
The Blue Devils finished fourth overall on both the men’s and women’s sides. The women earned a total of 77 points, and the men tallied 81 points.