After kicking off the season with a successful team performance at the Carolina Cup, the Blue Devils hope to divide and conquer this weekend.
The multi-event athletes will take on the Tobacco Road Cup in Raleigh, N.C., Friday and Saturday while the rest of the squad will head to Blacksburg, Va., for the Hokie Invitational.
Duke will look to use the meets early in its packed schedule to gauge where its athletes are, but the Blue Devils already look poised to have a record-breaking season.
“We have a lot of talent in a lot of events, so we are pretty excited about the season,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “We haven’t run really well in a long time, so that was great to see at Chapel Hill. You have to get the competitive rust off. Usually you improve a lot from week one to week two, so I hope to see everybody run a little bit faster than last week.”
The women’s squad gained national attention after taking home the team victory in Raleigh with eight event wins to open the indoor season. Duke claimed the No. 17 spot in Track and Field News’ first set of weekly rankings.
The Blue Devils dominated the track at the Carolina Cup, taking the top four in the 200 meters and top two in the 400 meters, sweeping first through third in the 800 meters and going one-two-four in the mile. In the field events, the Duke women are led by All-Americans junior Megan Clark and redshirt junior Karli Johonnot—both ranked in the top 10 nationally in their respective events.
Johonnot and a strong roster of multi-event athletes will take on the Tobacco Road Cup this weekend. After clearing 5 feet, 10 ¾ inches in the high jump—good for the eighth-best mark in the nation this year—Johonnot will compete in her first pentathlon of the season.
On the men’s side, freshman Tanner Johnson has big shoes to fill in the heptathlon.
“I see him developing into a Curtis Beach-caliber athlete,” associate head coach Shawn Wilbourn said. “He really stood out in his first meet as a true freshman, competing in some events he’s never competed in before.”
Johnson earned a personal best mark of 14 feet, 11 inches in his collegiate debut in the pole vault and will look for more success in this weekend’s two-day seven-event competition.
Clark and the remainder of the squad will make their first of four trips this indoor season to Virginia Tech’s Rector Fieldhouse.
The Fort Benning, Ga., native won the pole vault at the Carolina Cup with a 13 feet, 3 ¾ inches clearance—the 10th-best mark in the nation so far. Clark is no stranger to the top of the poll after posting the nation’s highest outdoor midseason clearance of 14 feet, 7 ¼ inches. But she hopes that this year she will compete in her first national championships.
“Over the past few years her confidence has gotten better,” Wilbourn said. “We hope to carry that confidence from last season into this year. She has been practicing very well, and we hope that by the time we get to the end of the season, she will be one of the top vaulters in the country and up for All-American accolades.”
The Blue Devils will use this weekend’s meets to shape the 36-athlete roster for the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York Jan. 30 and 31. Narrowing down their list from this talented group will be a tall order for the Duke coaching staff.
“Coming off of this weekend, we will start to compete in much bigger meets,” Wilbourn said. “We are looking for those athletes who are going to be our superstars, and we are looking to see how they handle these early meets when we are still training pretty hard.”
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