For some, this weekend’s meet could mark the final races of their Duke career. For others, it could be a stepping stone to the NCAA Championships.
The Blue Devils will send 27 competitors to the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Greensboro, N.C. this weekend with the hope of qualifying for the NCAA Championship in Eugene, Ore.
Qualifying athletes had to hold one of the top 48 individual marks or one of the top 24 relay marks in the East Region. Following this weekend’s competition, the top 12 athletes from each event will be chosen to compete in the national championship June 5.
“Everybody at this level believes they can go [to the NCAA Championship],” Duke head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “They are all very good and they are not separated by a lot. It’s going to be a great competition and the people best prepared will get to move on.”
Redshirt junior Curtis Beach is ranked third in the nation in the decathalon, automatically qualifying him for the NCAA Championship in Oregon. Beach—who competed at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials last summer—will use this weekend as what Ogilvie calls a “tune-up” before the NCAA Championship, and could possibly qualify in another event as well.
Not every Blue Devil competitor has a guaranteed spot to compete for a national championship. Others will fight over a matter of inches to make it to the final meet of the season.
Junior Erica Brand is the No. 4 seed in the women’s discus, and senior Austin Gamble is the No. 9 seed on the men’s side. Ogilvie said that despite their high rankings, Brand and Gamble still have a tough challenge ahead of them if they hope to qualify for the championship.
“They must compete still—there’s not a lot of difference between the No. 1 guy and the 48th guy,” Ogilvie said. “They are separated by inches here or there.”
Gamble, who is also a linebacker for Duke’s football team, took time off from the discus last year to focus on his other sport. He last attended the national championship in Oregon as a freshman.
All-American honoree Cydney Ross, a senior, has the greatest chance of advancing to the national championship in the 800 meters, Ogilvie said. James Kostelnik, a fifth-year senior, also could qualify in the 5,000 meters.
Ogilvie noted that the meet this weekend is exciting because the Blue Devils will be represented in a wide array of events.
“What’s great about this years Duke track and field team is that they are so well spread out over a number of events,” he said. “I’m really excited for this weekend.”