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Blue Devils stumble in NCAA Championships

Ryan McDermott, the final Blue Devil to compete last Wednesday, finished 20th in the steeplechase.
Ryan McDermott, the final Blue Devil to compete last Wednesday, finished 20th in the steeplechase.

Duke trotted out six first-timers to the NCAA Championships last week, but youthful exuberance didn’t translate into results for the team.

The Blue Devils struggled last Wednesday through Friday in Eugene, Ore., to replicate the success they found in the qualifying rounds of the NCAA Championships last month in Greensboro, N.C.

All six finished between 20th and 22nd place in his or her event. The youth of the team, however, is promising for the program’s future, according to head coach Norm Ogilvie.

“We’re a year away,” Ogilvie said. “I think we got some great experience, but we found out we need to get better.... All six kids who went to Oregon had the performance of their careers in Greensboro. The hope is you go back, after seeing all the success and fans there, and you say, ‘I want that, too.’”

Of the six athletes, Ogilvie singled out Carly Seymour the most for her performance in the finals. Seymour, a sophomore distance runner, finished the 10,000 meters in a time of 34:06.40 during day one last Wednesday. Though the mark was a personal-best by 51 seconds, Seymour still finished in 22nd place. Ogilvie chalked it up to just how good her competitors were.

“[Seymour] was the one person that really performed well,” Ogilvie said. “The others were just off their season best.”

Also competing Wednesday was discus hurler Austin Gamble. Gamble, who doubles as a linebacker on the football team, became the first Blue Devil in school history to compete in the discus throw of the NCAA Championships after unleashing an 180-foot, 10-inch toss in Greensboro. He couldn’t quite match that number in Eugene, though, finishing in 20th place after throwing 160-feet, three-inches. The freshman’s enthusiasm may have hurt him in the finals.

“He was probably the most excited out of the six,” Ogilvie said. “He did really well... but it took him two throws to settle down.”

Ryan McDermott was the last Blue Devil to compete Wednesday. Running in the steeplechase, the junior came in 20th after finishing in 8:55.47.

On day two, Duke’s Corey Nanni and Kate Van Buskirk competed in the 1,500 m. Nanni fell victim to an unusual injury—an insect bite— in the days before he was set to run in the men’s event. It became infected, and Nanni ran in Eugene while on medication. He still finished the race in 3:53.04, good for 22nd place, but well off his 3:43.52 performance in Greensboro.

“He couldn’t even run for a few days before nationals,” Ogilvie said. “He was in position to make the finals, but he couldn’t make it the last 1,000 meters because of the antibacterials.”

Senior Van Buskirk finished 22nd in her event with a 4:28.65 run.

Juliet Bottorff was the final runner to compete for Duke in Eugene. The freshman ran the 5,000 m last Friday in 16:38.26, finishing in 22nd.

While the lack of top finishers in the group of six was disappointing after strong performances in Greensboro, Ogilvie is confident of his group for future events. Twenty-seven of the 28 athletes that competed in Greensboro return to the team next year. Five of the six who advanced to the championships in Eugene are also coming back.

“We’re pretty excited about next year. The 2011 track season is setting up to be the best in school history,” he said. “It just didn’t happen in Eugene.”

Four Blue Devils compete for the last time this year in the U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships, beginning next Wednesday. Nanni and McDermott will run, while freshmen Michelle Anumba and Andrea Hopkins will throw in the juniors event. 

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