Duke track and field looks to finish strong at NCAA Championships

Duke's 4-x-400 relay will try to bring home the gold when they take the track Thursday.
Duke's 4-x-400 relay will try to bring home the gold when they take the track Thursday.

Chasing another title in her final races in a Duke uniform, national championship veteran Juliet Bottorff leads seven other Blue Devils into their first NCAA Championships.

Duke qualified for the national championships in four individual events and a relay, setting itself up for a strong close to the outdoor season in Eugene, Ore. with four days of national-championship competition beginning Wednesday.

Bottorff qualified for the national championships in both distance events at the NCAA East Regional Preliminary round two weeks ago. Running the 10,000 meters at a comfortable pace, she finished in 33:55.49 and enters the event Thursday seeded sixth.

“I feel like she’s most excited about this national championship, even more so than the two previous,” associate coach Kevin Jermyn said. “She feels like she’s in the best physical fitness and racing mindset she’s ever been in. We’re excited for the opportunity and feel really confident she’s ready to go out there and push herself to a level she’s never been before.”

No stranger to success at the national level, Bottorff—the 10,000 meter NCAA Outdoor Champion in 2011—has recorded impressive times in her career, most recently breaking Duke’s 28-year-old record with her time of 32:25.69 in early May.

Erin Finn of Michigan enters the event with the top-seeded time of 33:13.46. Bottorff will look to hold a steady pace at the front of the pack with Finn in hopes of a second national title.

Bottorff also qualified for the 5,000 meters at the Preliminary Round by turning in the second-fastest time recorded by a Blue Devil. Crossing the line in a new personal best of 15:53.78, she positioned herself in fifth entering this weekend’s competition. Elinor Kirk of the University of Alabama at Birmingham holds the fastest seedtime of 15:53.93.

Both races provide an opportunity for the graduate student to reach the podium in the final meet of her Duke career.

“I don’t think I knew I could focus on something this much until I focused on this meet,” Bottorff said. “I feel more prepared than I’ve ever been and I just want a great meet this weekend to be the end of my career, just to show everything I’ve done and show off our whole program, including our coaches and everything Kevin’s done.”

Fellow distance runner Brian Atkinson will also compete in the 10,000 meters. Atkinson qualified for the first national championship meet of his Blue Devil career in Jacksonville, Fla., crossing the line in 29:57.49 to earn the 10th out of 12 possible spots. The senior hopes to finish his final race for Duke earning All-America honors before heading to Tampa, Fla., for medical school at the University of South Florida.

“Brian can cement his legacy at Duke forever with an All-America performance at nationals,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “It’s certainly not a low bar… Probably the key for Brian has been durability. I think we’ve had quite a few guys at Duke who would say, ‘I’m willing to run a 100 miles a week to get better,’ but not everyone can do it.”

Redshirt sophomore Thomas Lang also qualified for his first NCAA Championships with a top-12 performance in the javelin at the East Regional meet. Earning fourth two weeks ago with a mark of 227 feet, Lang enters this weekend’s meet as the No. 10 seed. Riding a wave of personal bests this season following time off for elbow surgery, he hopes to throw for another personal record and earn points for the Blue Devils.

For the first time in school history, the Blue Devils will compete in the women’s 4-x-400 meter relay at the NCAA Championships. Duke will send freshman Madeline Kopp, redshirt sophomore Teddi Maslowski and juniors Lauren Hansson, Elizabeth Kerpon and Abby Farley to Eugene following a school-record-breaking performance in Jacksonville with a time of 3:33.09 posted by the quartet of Kopp, Hansson, Maslowski and Kerpon. The Blue Devils will compete in the preliminary round Thursday, hoping to finish among the top-two teams in their heat or next two fastest times overall in order to advance to the finals.


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