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Duke track and field to compete at NCAA regionals

With one meet left before the NCAA Championships, Duke athletes will have to produce and advance or go home.

Seeking qualification for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, the Blue Devils will compete in the NCAA First Round starting Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla.

Last Wednesday the East Region’s top 48 declared athletes in each event were announced, and 27 Duke athletes made the final list, equaling the number of qualifiers from the 2013 season. This year’s championship roster shows strong representation in both track and field events.

“We have a great group,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “Whether they advance to Eugene or not, they have done something special just getting here. It’s super-competitive this weekend because no one is going to lay down. It’s produce and advance and survive or go home.”

The top 12 performers in the East Region will advance to Eugene, Ore., to meet the top 12 performers of the West Region two weeks after the First Round. Both regional meets will take place Thursday through Saturday.

Of the Blue Devils who advanced to the NCAA Championships from the First Round in Greensboro, N.C. last year, sophomore Anima Banks and redshirt senior Austin Gamble hope to repeat their achievement.

Banks entered the preliminary heats of last year’s East Regional 800 meters seeded 29th overall and grabbed the 24th and final spot for the quarterfinal round. Taking fifth in her heat, she again took the final qualifying spot to advance and earned her trip to the national championships as a freshman. Entering this year’s regional meet seeded 15th overall with Duke’s fourth-fastest all-time performance of 2:05.80, Banks will look to move up three spots into qualifying position but will face a tough field.

Also qualifying for the First Round outside of the top 12, Gamble enters his third East Regional competition seeded 22nd in the discus with his season-best mark of 185 feet, 11 inches. The redshirt senior holds the Blue Devil record in the event of 190 feet, 6 inches. With 17 athletes entering the meet with marks exceeding his personal best, Gamble might have to set a new record in order to advance to the NCAA Championships.

Two Blue Devils enter this weekend’s competition as favorites to advance to Eugene.

Sophomore Megan Clark is the top seed in the women’s pole vault with the third-highest mark in the nation of 14 feet, 7 1/4 inches. As a freshman, she tied for 19th with a mark of 12 feet, 1 1/2 inches. Clark has improved dramatically this year, breaking the school record held by former Olympian Jillian Schwartz at the Carolina Cup to open the outdoor season, and will look to advance to her first NCAA Championships.

“Megan is solid,” Ogilvie said. “Being the number one seed is a good place to be.”

Graduate student Juliet Bottorff, the 2011 NCAA Outdoor 10,000-meter champion, did not compete in the 2013 outdoor season. Returning to the track this year, Bottorff broke Duke’s 28-year-old record in the 10,000 meters by 15 seconds at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational earlier this month, crossing the line with a new personal best of 32:25.69. Bottorff enters this weekend’s competition with the second-fastest seed time behind Elinor Kirk of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“She has to be one of the overwhelming favorites to make Eugene,” Ogilvie said. “She will come back in the 5K on Saturday for a tough double, but we feel like she can make it in both events.”

Redshirt senior Curtis Beach will be unable to compete with his teammates this weekend following his elbow injury in the decathlon at the ACC Championships. With surgery scheduled for this summer, Beach will hang up his Duke uniform and focus on his professional career.


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