With hopes of NCAA Indoor Championship berths and only three more opportunities to compete before selection, the Blue Devils will need to use this weekend to improve on their season-best marks if they want to punch their tickets to Fayetteville, Ark., in March.
Duke will send a select group of athletes to Ames, Iowa to compete in the Iowa State Classic Friday and Saturday, and Megan Clark and the men’s 4-x-800 relay will represent the Blue Devils at the prestigious Millrose Games Saturday.
Travelling across the country to find the nation’s best, the Duke squad will use the tough competition to push them to achieving some of the top marks in collegiate competition.
“A lot of NCAA hopes are at stake this weekend,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “Iowa is a fast meet, and the Millrose Games is the oldest and most prestigious indoor track meet in the world. This is a big weekend for us.”
The women’s 4-x-400 meter relay will return to competition in Iowa after breaking the school record by three seconds at the Armory Collegiate Invitational Jan. 31. Elizabeth Kerpon, Madeline Kopp, Lauren Hansson and Maddy Price’s 3:36.76 performance is the ninth fastest time by a collegiate team this indoor season, but the quartet hopes to lower their record mark to ensure that they will be among the 12 teams invited to compete in Fayetteville.
“While we ran a great time in New York, there’s still a lot of running left to be done this indoor season,” Ogilvie said. “We want to be sure that we get into the NCAA Championships. So that’s an event with a lot at stake this weekend. We feel like if we can lower the school record by another second, then we will be in good shape.”
On the men’s side, senior Nate McClafferty will toe the line with hopes of breaking the four-minute barrier in the mile. With a personal-best time of 4:03.40, the senior ranks fourth on Duke’s all-time list.
“It is still a pretty rare thing,” Ogilvie said. “There have been 427 Americans as of today who have broken four minutes. There are more U.S. Congressmen alive at any one moment than there have ever been American men to break that barrier in the mile. But Nate’s in a great position to do it.”
Over on the East coast, the Blue Devil men have their 4-x-800 meter relay title to defend—but with a four new faces competing in their first Millrose Games. Senior Henry Farley, a consistent contributor to Duke’s distance and middle distance relays, will have his chance to shine as the leadoff leg. The squad’s three fastest freshmen, Kyle Francis, Jordan Burton and Sean Kelly will bring the race home.
Duke will be challenged Saturday competing without their fastest miler McClafferty, but Ogilvie is confident that the lineup has a good chance of repeating as Millrose Games champions.
On the women’s side, sophomore Megan Clark—tabbed last week’s two-straight ACC Female Field Performer of the Week—will look to improve upon her season best performance in the pole vault from the Armory Invitational. Jumping 14 feet, 4 inches, Clark was just shy of her own program record of 14 feet, 5 ¼ inches.
And former Blue Devil Shannon Rowbury will also be competing this weekend. The 2007 NCAA Indoor mile champion and first Duke woman to earn a national track title recorded the fifth-fastest time in world history in the mile at the Camel City Elite Races Jan. 31, clocking 4:22.66. With sight set on the American record of 4:20.50 held by Mary Slaney, Rowbury will aim to win the women’s mile and could become the first American woman to break 4:20.
The Millrose Games will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
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