Duke entered the NCAA Championships carrying a streak of broken school records that dated back to early March. And in the final meet of the 2013 outdoor season, two Blue Devils made sure that streak would continue into next year.
Four athletes represented Duke in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. last weekend. By the time the weekend drew to a close, two more school records had fallen and three Blue Devils had garnered All-America honors.
Redshirt senior Cydney Ross led the way for Duke, earning first-team All-America honors and placing seventh in the women’s 800 meters.
“Cydney Ross was outstanding,” head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “She went in with the mindset that she had a chance to win, and I think it’s great to lay it on the line in the last race of your career and try to win.”
After placing fourth overall in the semifinal heats with a personal record of 2:03.62, Ross was in contention for a national championship heading into the final race. When LSU’s Natoya Goule, the top-ranked competitor in the field, pushed the field to start the race, Ross kept up with her stride for stride.
As the runners turned for home, the pace finally caught up with Ross and five other runners passed her. In a race where every single runner posted a personal best, Ross shattered her own school record by more than a second with a time of 2:02.48.
“It was her final race in a Duke uniform and she biltzed it. She went out super fast,” Ogilvie said. “She was five seconds faster at 600 meters than she was on Wednesday—when she ran the fastest 800 of her life. So there was no chance she was going to sustain that.”
Despite leading the field after six events, redshirt junior Curtis Beach faltered down the stretch and finish seventh in the decathlon but earned first-team All-America honors as well.
“Curtis had a phenomenal first day in the decathlon and was leading what was probably the deepest field in collegiate history,” Ogilvie said. “But he didn’t vault within a foot of what he was capable of and that kind of deflated him. He was in it to win it, he wasn’t coming to place—he wanted to win the thing.”
Beach won three of the decathlon’s events and was the only competitor to win more than two of the competition’s 10 legs. He finished first in the long jump, breaking the school record with a jump of 25 feet, seven-and-one-half inches. He also won the 400 meters with a time of 47.74 seconds and the 1,500 meters with a time of 4:03.64.
Beach struggled in the throwing events, finishing 17th in the shot put, 19th in the discus and 22nd in the javelin, which placed him 13th heading into the decathlon’s final event, the 1,500 meters. Beach defeated the rest of the field by nearly 12 seconds to elevate him back into the top eight and earn first-team All-American.
“We got him together before the 1,500 and told him his goal should be to win this event,” Ogilvie said. “And he won three of the 10 events in the decathlon, which is pretty impressive in that field.”
Making his first appearance at the NCAA Championships since 2010, redshirt junior Austin Gamble placed 13th in the discus, earning second-team All-America honors. After struggling on his first throw, Gamble, who also played four years as a linebacker for Duke’s football team, bounced back on his second attempt with a throw of 186 feet, eight inches.
“It’s a lot better than he did when he was a freshman. When he was a freshman he wasn’t last, but he was close,” Ogilvie said. “He just didn’t hit that really monster throw we were hoping for but he competed well.”
Anima Banks, who was one of just three true freshmen to compete in the women’s 800 meters, placed 17th overall with a time of 2:08.30 and failed to qualify for the final.
But Ogilvie said that that for Banks, this race was mostly about gaining experience.
“With Anima, it’s just experience. She’s going to keep getting better as she runs more races and her ceiling is huge,” Ogilvie said. “I’d be shocked if she doesn't hold the 800-meter school record when she is a senior.”
The Blue Devils will return a number of key contributors next season, as Banks, Beach and Gamble seek to return to the NCAA Championships.
Although Duke’s season has drawn to a close. Ross and Beach will both compete against amateur and professional athletes in the US Outdoor Track and Field Championships June 20-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.
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