The Blue Devils earned five first-place finishes at the Rector Fieldhouse in Blacksburg, Va., Friday and Saturday to open the 2014 indoor season.
With the majority of Duke’s key relay legs returning to the roster and the addition of the women’s third-ranked freshman class according to Track and Field News, the Blue Devils look to improve upon last indoor season’s finish at the ACC Championships—third place for the women and fifth for the men.
“We think we’re in a pretty good place, but there’s nothing like an actual competition to sort everything out,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said.
On the men’s side, junior Nate McClafferty secured Duke’s first win of the meet with a time of 4:09.45 in the mile. Freshman Alec Kunzweiler followed closely behind his teammate and Leoule Degfae of Virginia Tech to finish third in a time of 4:10.61.
Seniors Phil Fairleigh and Clint McKelvey both broke the 15-minute barrier in the 5,000-meter race with times of 14:49.08 and 14:57.87, respectively. The pair finished second and third ahead of sophomore Eddie Merenda, who crossed the line in fourth in a time of 15:01.21.
The Blue Devils dominated the 3,000-meter event, turning in the top three times by more than six seconds. Graduate student Mike Moverman led the pack with a time of 8:21.51. Junior Shaun Thompson followed a half-second behind Moverman, and senior Brian Atkinson completed the sweep of the top three spots in a time of 8:25.00.
In the 800-meter event, junior Henry Farley passed teammate Kyle Moran in the final 200 meters as Duke finished in first and second place in times of 1:54.56 and 1:54.66.
“We’re very excited about our middle-distance prospects,” Ogilvie said. “Last year we finished number four in the country in the 4x800 relay. We have all four of those guys returning… in theory, the 4x800 will only get better, so we’re really excited about that.”
With the addition of freshmen Wesley Frazier and Hannah and Haley Meier as well as graduate student Audrey Huth from Northwestern, the women’s team boasts a strong middle-distance roster.
“Our biggest volume seems to be at one mile,” associate head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “Some of those athletes will come down to 800m, and some of them will go up to 3,000m as their secondary event.”
Duke did not enter any women in the mile on Friday and instead shifted athletes into the shorter and longer events.
The Blue Devils posted the second through fifth-fastest times in the 1,000-meter race. Hannah and Haley Meier made their track debut with second- and fourth-place finishes less than a second apart. Sophomore Anima Banks crossed the line between them in third with a time of 2:49.51. Huth rounded out the event for Duke with a fifth-place finish in a time of 2:50.65.
Graduate student Juliet Bottorff—the 2013 women’s cross country 6,000-meter ACC Champion—returned to the track with a third-place finish in the 3,000-meter event. Senior Ashley Berry crossed the line 10 seconds behind her teammate in a time of 9:57.62 to finish fourth in the event.
Both Ogilvie and Jermyn have high hopes for Duke’s distance medley relays this season.
“Duke has come close a few times to qualifying for NCAAs in the distance medley relay,” Ogilvie said. “That’s a goal for the squad, to see if we can make nationals in the DMR. It’s extremely competitive. They only take 12 teams in the whole country.”
The men’s relay composed of Kunzweiler, freshman Dylan Murphy, sophomore Dylan Newman and junior Brian Schoepfer outran Charlotte the entire race, turning in a final time 10:08.73 with more than a 10-second lead.
Jermyn said that the women’s team hopes to return a distance medley relay to the NCAA Championships this indoor season.
The Blue Devils showed great potential to achieve that goal by sweeping first through third places in the event, with a 30-second difference between the first Duke team across the line and Tennessee in fourth place. The A-relay of Hannah and Haley Meier, junior Callie Francis and Huth led the field, crossing the line in a time of 11:30.42. The B and C-relays turned in times of 11:41.01 and 11:57.59, respectively.