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Duke track and field looks to qualify for national championships in Jacksonville

Senior Nate McClafferty will be Duke's lone male representative to hit the track this weekend at the NCAA qualifying meet in Jacksonville, Fla.
Senior Nate McClafferty will be Duke's lone male representative to hit the track this weekend at the NCAA qualifying meet in Jacksonville, Fla.

Two weeks after a strong team performance at the ACC championships in Tallahassee, Fla., 17 Blue Devils will head back to the Sunshine State with hopes of extending their postseasons.

Duke will compete in the three-day NCAA East Preliminary Round meet in Jacksonville, Fla., starting Thursday, looking to qualify for the national championships in Eugene, Ore., June 10-13.

The top 12 athletes in each event will advance to the NCAA championship meet next month. Expectations are high for the two Blue Devil relays and women’s pole vaulters, and some of Duke’s standouts enter the meet just outside the 12 expected to advance.

“There’s a lot of pressure, especially in the field events where you just get three attempts,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “I think most of our competitors are seasoned, and I don’t think they are psyched out at all. That’s what this meet is all about, showing up on the day and competing well.”

Junior pole vaulter Megan Clark is poised to advance to her first outdoor national, entering the competition tied for the top seed in the women’s pole vault with Carolina Carmichael of Memphis with a mark of 14 feet, 9 inches.

The First Team All-American narrowly missed qualifying for Eugene at the East Regional championships last season with a 14th-place finish, but has much more experience heading into this weekend’s competition—including a silver medal from the NCAA indoor championships in March.

“She’s handled a lot of big meets since then,” Ogilvie said. “She’s the top vaulter in the nation and the best vaulter at this meet. She should be able to do it, no problem.”

Freshman Madison Heath will also look to advance from Jacksonville in the pole vault. The Mandeville, La., native jumped her career best at the Mt. Sac Relays April 17 and enters the meet tied for 11th with a mark of 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches.

Teddi Maslowski also earned an 11th-place seed in the women’s long jump and has already earned a trip to Eugene with her 5,706-point performance in the heptathlon at the Mt. Sac Relays. The redshirt junior will also compete in the 100-meter hurdles, in which she is seeded 22nd with a time of 13.38 seconds.

Looking to extend her Duke career until June, graduate student Erica Brand sits just outside the top 12 in the women’s discus with her season-best mark of 175 feet, 7 inches.

The women’s 4x400 meter relay will aim to earn its second straight qualification for the NCAA championships. The quartet of seniors Lauren Hansson and Elizabeth Kerpon, sophomore Madeline Kopp and freshman Maddy Price earned the fourth seed in the regional meet with their school-record time of 3:32.40. The same four athletes will also represent Duke in the women’s 4x100 meter relay, in which they are seeded 20th with a school-record time of 44.92 seconds.

Redshirt junior Thomas Lang will look to lead the Blue Devils on the men’s side, seeking to earn his second consecutive national championship qualification in the javelin. The ACC champion enters the meet 11th with a mark of 231 feet, 8 inches.

“If he throws what he did at ACCs, I bet you he will finish in the top 12,” Ogilvie said. “He’s one of the four men we have here, but all four are really good.”

Joining Lang in the throws, redshirt junior Stephen Boals will compete in both the shot put and the discus. In his signature event, the shot put, Boals is seeded 24th with his toss of 59 feet, 8 1/2 inches that earned him a fourth-place finish in Tallahassee.

Connor Hall—the silver medalist in the pole vault at the ACC championships—is tied for 39th entering Thursday's competition with his season-best mark of 16 feet, 7 1/2 inches.

Nate McClafferty will be the men’s lone representative on the track. The senior—the school's first indoor miler to break the four minute barrier—will toe the line for the 1,500 meters as the 18th seed, entering with a time of 3:43.78.

Duke advanced three individual-event athletes and one relay from the Jacksonville meet in 2014 and has the potential to improve on last season’s result. The Blue Devils just have to make it into the top 12 to move on to Eugene.

“At this meet, first place is as good as 12th place because it gets you to nationals,” Ogilvie said. “This is truly a qualifying meet. It’s survive and advance here.”


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