For most of the Blue Devils, the season ended this Saturday with the close of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. For four of those athletes it ended on a high-note as Curtis Beach, Michelle Anumba, Juliet Bottorff and Amy Fryt walked away with All-America honors.
“We were a little concerned going into the season because we had graduated such a good senior class,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “They were some of the best we’ve ever had at Duke. But much to our surprise, we ended up with a really good team… We brought eight to the NCAA meet, and six of them are coming back.”
After a season in which the team broke many school records, Duke athletes continued making history at the outdoor chamionships, the final meet of the outdoor season. Beach, a junior, became the program’s first male, since Olympic athlete Dave Sime in 1956, to qualify for competition in two individual events, the long jump and the 800m.
Beach managed to not only qualify, but also earn second-team All-America honors with his 15th place finish in the long jump, where he jumped 7.42m, and his 16th place finish in the 800m with a time of 1:48.7. With those two finishes, in addition to his previously-earned All-America honors in the indoor heptathlon and decathlon, Beach became the first Blue Devil to earn honors in four different events.
In addition to Beach, three other Duke athletes were able to leave the meet with All-America honors. Anumba, a junior, concluded a season that included a first-place finish at the ACC meet, with an eighth-place finish in the shot put with a throw of 17.14m. The finish made her the first female Blue Devil to finish with first team All-America honors and topped a group of stellar performances from the entire throws group.
Bottorff, a junior, also managed to earn second team All-America honors when she crossed the line in 14th in the 10,000m. Bottorff headed into the race as the defending champion after a strategic race at the 2011 meet won her the title. Despite running a time of 33:46.80, more than 35 seconds faster than her showing at the previous meet, Bottorff was unable to hold on to the top spot.
“Fourteenth in the country is still pretty good,” Ogilvie said. “When you win as a sophomore, you know you’ve had a special night. [This year, Juliet] beat a lot of girls that beat her at [regionals]… she ran a little more conservative and guaranteed she’d make All-American. She gave everything she had.”
The final Blue Devil to earn an All-America spot was Fryt, who tied Missouri’s Katrine Haarklua for 15th in the pole vault with a distance of 4.15m. Fryt, who red-shirted the previous outdoor season due to a knee injury, closed off her fifth season in high spirits.
“Just making it [to the national meet] was a big accomplishment for me,” Fryt said. “It’s what every Division I athlete strives for. I was just excited to compete at the highest level of college athletics.”
Although for several of the athletes, including junior Andrea Hopkins and sophomore Erica Brand, just traveling to the NCAA meet was a positive experience, for the seniors competing—Michael Barbas, Fryt and Cydney Ross—it was bittersweet.
“You’re supposed to treat it like it’s any other meet, but that’s basically impossible,” Barbas said. “I competed Saturday, then I had to fly out for my job on Sunday. So I knew that my life would forever be different literally just twelve hours after I competed.”
Even though Barbas was not among those who garnered accolades at the outdoor championships, this season was a historic one for him. At the NCAA Regional meet his shot put of 18.49m broke Rod Stewart’s school record that had been standing since 1966.
Despite their nostalgia, the seniors agreed that being part of Duke track and field was something they considered irreplaceable.
“[Being a part of the program] has meant so much,” Barbas said. “I learned so much through my frustrations and triumphs alike. I think that some of the things I learned about myself and that I developed in my character through competition have equipped me to take on challenges that are completely different. [The thrill of competition] is something I’m going to miss… and I’m going to miss all my teammates.”