With the season coming to a close, so is the window for runners looking to make the postseason.
As the Blue Devils head into their last two weeks of regular season competition, it will be important that the squad continues to hit their stride at the perfect time. Duke will take part in the two-day Virginia Challenge in Charlottesville, Va., this Friday and Saturday with hopes that those who are on the bubble of qualifying for NCAA regionals will hit their marks this weekend.
“Hopefully a lot of athletes this weekend will clinch their spot," director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. "Some people already have [and] some are definitely going to make the top 48. But there are a number of people we would call on the bubble right now.”
The last two weekends will be focused on the efforts of these athletes, as their spots in the postseason have not yet been solidified. The Blue Devils will look to shake off any rust that may have accumulated during finals week and qualify as many runners for the NCAA regionals as possible.
Final exams seemed to take a toll on all the runners, as the stress and mental exhaustion translated into physical exhaustion and poor practice as well.
“With my group of men’s distance runners, we had a practice on Thursday on which they had all just finished their finals. They were extremely exhausted and had no strength in their legs or anything,” Ogilvie said. “It was pretty shocking how bad they looked. I said, ‘Hey, let’s try this again on Monday.’ And they came back Monday and were 100 percent again. Finals can take a lot out of you.”
With exams in the rearview mirror and the postseason quickly approaching, Duke’s efforts can now be focused on qualifying as many people for regionals as possible. But spots will be limited and all those hoping to make a run in the NCAAs will have to perform well during the next two weekends.
27 athletes will take part in the meet Saturday. With the amount of time to qualify dwindling, the Blue Devils will look to send the majority to Jacksonville, Fla., in three weeks.
“We have a bunch of people in position to make the postseason,” Ogilvie said. “They take the top 48 in the East region and the top 48 in the West region…. Right now we have probably 30 athletes that have a decent shot of making the regional meet and the last couple weekends. All those have been on the bubble and will get a chance to pull their position up.
Following Saturday’s meet, the Blue Devils that fail to hit their marks will take another week to prepare then depart to either Raleigh or Atlanta to take part in a pair of last-chance meets, which are, as the name indicates, a final opportunity for all those on the edge of the postseason to qualify.
“We’ll probably take most of the team to N.C. State on Friday and a select few will go to Atlanta [to compete at] Georgia Tech,” Ogilvie said. “The competition is often stiffer at Atlanta, which helps you produce better marks….We won’t make any final calls until after this weekend.”
Despite this being a crucial weekend on the track for the team, a select few will have to make the quick change from their track uniforms to a cap and gown come Sunday, as Duke’s graduation ceremony takes place that morning. Although they will be three hours away, Ogilvie has assured the team that nobody will miss the special day and has made special arrangements for those graduating to get back on time.
“There are a couple people who are seniors who need to get back for graduation on Sunday morning,” he said. “Some of them may be traveling late by bus Saturday night to get back to Durham but we’ll make sure that happens.”