4 Blue Devils headed to nationals

Though few graduated seniors remain on campus in early June, four Blue Devil athletes will be in Durham until next week, preparing for the season-ending NCAA Outdoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. June 10-13.

Seniors Tyler Clarke, Jade Ellis, Patricia Loughlin and Molly Lehman all qualified for the NCAA meet for the first time in their careers. Clarke, a decathlete, did so several weeks ago, while the trio of Ellis, Loughlin and Lehman earned their places through their performances at the NCAA East Regional in Greensboro last weekend.

Athletes had the chance to guarantee themselves a spot in the NCAA field with a top-five finish in their events at the regional competition.

The sixth-to-12th place finishers in each regional event were then compared to participants at other regionals, and the top scorers in that range were granted at-large bids to nationals.

Ellis, the ACC champion in the long jump, and Loughlin, a middle distance runner, booked their tickets to Fayetteville the easy way, finishing near the top of their respective events in Greensboro.

Loughlin ran the 3000-meter race in 10:10.61, good for second place and an automatic bid to the NCAA meet.

Ellis, who holds the school record in the long jump, performed well again under pressure. He did not quite match his ACC-best and career-high mark of 25 feet-6 inches, but his 24-3.75 last Friday was good enough for third place.

Duke's other national qualifiers, Clarke and Lehman, were made to sweat a bit more by the NCAA.

Clarke's score of 7,326 points in the decathlon at the ACC Championships in April earned him All-ACC honors, but he did not find out until mid-May that he would be invited to nationals.

Lehman, meanwhile, had to wait until Tuesday to receive her at-large bid. Lehman finished 11th in the 1500m at the East Regional with a time of 4:34.90, which included a stumble near the end of the race. Nonetheless, the senior's result was good enough to merit a bid to nationals.

"I'm running at a different level than I ever had before," Lehman said. "My goal from the beginning of this indoor season was to make it to outdoor nationals because I was so close last year."

Clarke, Ellis and Loughlin begin their NCAA events June 10, and Lehman's opening-round race starts the following day.


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