Led by graduate student Juliet Bottorff, the Blue Devils closed out the outdoor season with four All-America Honors at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., this weekend.
Bottorff raced in her two—potentially—final events for Duke, hoping for the second 10,000 meter national title of her career and looking to earn All-America honors in the 5,000 meters. Competing in her fourth outdoor national championships, Bottorff became the first female in Blue Devil history to earn four All-America honors throughout the course of her career but fell just short of her goal of winning the 10,000 meters.
Settling in at the front of the pack early in Thursday’s 10,000 meters, Bottorff held a steady pace with the lead six athletes, including Elinor Kirk of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Emma Bates of Boise State. With a mile left to go, she made her move up to the front of the pack.
“I left it up to her when to go,” said associate head coach Kevin Jermyn. “It was really windy out so it wasn’t easy to lead. Right around the mile, I gave her the green light to consider going if she felt good. We felt like it was another advantage to try and make a long drive to the finish as opposed to just an all-out last 200 or 400 to maximize her position in the race.”
Bottorff held her lead until the final lap when Kirk and Bates made their move. She was unable to match their closing speed in the final stretch. Bates clocked her final lap in 1:07.74 for a final time of 32:32.35, crossing the line less than a second ahead of Kirk. Bottorff maintained her position in third, finishing in 32:37.46, the second-fastest time of her career, and earning First Team All-America honors.
Returning to the track two days later for the 5,000 meters, Bottorff followed the same strategy of positioning herself in the lead pack from the beginning of the race. Marielle Hall of Texas and Aisling Cuffe of Stanford broke away near the 3,000-meter mark, leaving Bottorff comfortably in the middle of the chase pack. Sitting in seventh with 800 meters to go, Bottorff made her move. Passing two competitors in the final lap, Bottorff finished fifth with a new personal best time of 15:55.94.
"I was definitely disappointed that I didn't win. I set that goal and that's what I wanted," Bottorff said. "But at the same time, going into it, you know it's not a guarantee. That's just a part of the sport. I absolutely enjoyed the week and had a lot of fun. I gave it my best effort. I gave it everything I had, so I can't say I have any regrets. On Thursday, I got beat."
The men’s distance program also shined this weekend. Senior Brian Atkinson earned All-America honors in the 10,000 meters with a 14th-place finish Wednesday.
Running in the first national championships of his career, Atkinson followed a similar strategy to his qualification race two weeks ago, keeping pace with the lead pack. He held a steady pace throughout the race, moving up from 15th to 14th by the time he crossed the line in 29:48.11 and earning Second Team All-America honors.
“He ran smart, he ran tough, and he got it done,” said director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “It worked out, and he definitely made [All-American] with room to spare. It was just an outstanding race for him. I’m really proud of him.”
Redshirt sophomore Thomas Lang earned Duke’s final All-America accolades of the weekend in the javelin Saturday. Throwing a foul then 214 feet, 2 inches on his first two attempts, Lang was able to throw his best mark on his final attempt. Throwing the javelin 218 feet, 3 inches, he moved up to fourth in his flight but 11th overall, two places short of qualification for the final round.
Duke also had its first women’s 4-x-400 meter relay compete in the national championships Thursday. Turning in a combined time of 3:36.34, juniors Lauren Hansson and Elizabeth Kerpon, redshirt sophomore Teddi Maslowski and freshman Madeline Kopp finished 17th in the semifinal round.