Trio of Blue Devils set themselves up for NCAA qualification

Junior Nate McClafferty should be heading to the NCAA Championships after an impressive 3:45.77 in the 1,500 meters at the Texas Relays.
Junior Nate McClafferty should be heading to the NCAA Championships after an impressive 3:45.77 in the 1,500 meters at the Texas Relays.

The Blue Devils continue to build momentum towards a strong outdoor season with another school record broken and a number of top-five all-time performances.

The men’s distance team shined at the Raleigh Relays, and Duke swept the javelin events at the Texas Relays as the Blue Devils split the team for this weekend’s competitions.

Duke turned in a standout performance in each of Friday’s distance events, with personal best times for juniors Nate McClafferty and Shaun Thompson and senior Brian Atkinson.

“That combination of events was easily the best night of distance running we’ve had in a quarter of a century here at Duke,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said.

McClafferty opened competition for the Blue Devils with a time of 3:45.77 in the 1,500 meters. Moving up from eighth place to third place with a 57-second split for the last 400 meters, McClafferty had the strongest final lap of the field.

Thompson broke the 14-minute barrier in the 5,000 meters for the first time in his collegiate career, crossing the line in 13:58.82, the fourth-fastest time in Duke history. Mike Moverman also competed in the event, turning in a time of 14:07.31.

With those times, all three Blue Devils will likely qualify for the first round of the NCAA Championships, Ogilvie said.

Atkinson continued Duke’s success in the final event of Friday night, the 10,000-meter run. The senior broke his personal-best record by 29 seconds, crossing the line in 29:27.85 for the fourth-best finish in program history. Finishing fifth overall, Atkinson finished second among ACC competitors behind Adam Visokay of Virginia.

The Blue Devils also turned in strong performances at the Texas Relays in Austin.

The women’s 4-x-200 relay of juniors Alexis Roper, Lauren Hansson, Elizabeth Kerpon and freshman Madeline Kopp broke a 12-year-old school record by nearly five seconds Saturday. The group ran a combined time of 1:35.55, averaging less than 24 seconds for each leg.

“We ran that relay loaded with our best people,” Ogilvie said. “We haven’t seen that kind of sprinting before by a Duke women’s team. They’re on fire right now. The sky is the limit with that group.”

The same group reached second on the school all-time list in the 4-x-400 relay, turning in a combined time of 3:38.60 Friday.

The Blue Devils took first in both the men’s and women’s javelin throws, with both Thomas Lang and Christine Streisel earning their second wins in as many meets.

Improving on his personal best from last weekend’s Carolina Relays, Lang threw the javelin 227 feet in the second round of competition. The throw placed the redshirt sophomore nearly two feet ahead of the second-place finisher.

“It was a very strong showing,” Ogilvie said. “He’s off to a great start this season and ranked at the top of the conference.”

Streisel only needed two throws to outscore the rest of the field. With a mark of 161 feet, 5 inches, the freshman captured her second win of her collegiate career.

Redshirt senior Curtis Beach began competition in the decathlon on Wednesday, competing in the first five events, but withdrew from Thursday’s competition.

“It’s an exhausting and grueling event,” Ogilvie said. “We took the chance that he would be recovered from the indoor championships by Texas because we don’t have all that many opportunities to do a full decathlon. You have to go out and give it a shot when you can. But he was tired and probably mentally exhausted too.”

Beach’s teammate, Robert Rohner, finished the decathlon with a total of more than 7,000 points for the first time in his collegiate career. The sophomore posted his strongest performance of the weekend in the 100-meter run, winning the event with a time of 10.45 seconds and placing third all-time among Duke runners. Turning in a personal best in each of the five disciplines contested on Thursday, Rohner earned a total of 7,047 points and placed ninth overall.

“We are very proud of what they have accomplished,” Ogilvie said. “We are continuing to show that we are one of the top teams in the ACC. We are only going to keep moving forward with this momentum.”


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