Led by a number of standout performers, the Blue Devils will enter their first postseason meet looking to bring home some individual titles and earn NCAA Regional qualifying marks.
Duke is set for the three-day ACC Outdoor Championships in Tallahassee, Fla., home of the defending men’s and women’s conference champions Florida State. The Blue Devils finished fourth on both sides in the 2014 contest and will send 54 representatives this weekend in hopes of improving upon that result.
With the top eight marks in each event contributing to the team total, Duke will aim to place multiple athletes in scoring position in the multi-events.
“On the men’s side, our best single event is the decathlon,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “Tanner Johnson has the best mark heading into the competition, and he’s only a freshman. And on the women’s side, we have our stars Teddi Maslowski and Karli Johonnot.”
The Blue Devils swept the podium in the decathlon at the 2014 ACC Championships, and Johnson will join gold and silver medalists Robert Rohner and Ian Rock in an effort to repeat that feat. The freshman earned the top seed in the event after his 7,173-point performance at the Mt. Sac Relays April 15-16.
On the women’s side, Maslowski is the second seed in the women’s heptathlon after scoring 5,706 points at the Mt. Sac Relays—breaking school records in the 100-meter hurdles and long jump en route to her record-setting total. Johonnot will also put herself in the mix for a spot on the podium in the two-day competition, looking to capitalize on her specialty—the high jump. The redshirt junior is seeded second in the event with a mark of 5 feet, 10 3/4 inches.
The women will also look to the sprint quartet of seniors Elizabeth Kerpon and Lauren Hansson, sophomore Madeline Kopp and freshman Maddy Price to move Duke up the scoreboard. The Blue Devils will make a run for the podium with the third-fastest time in the conference in the 4x400 meter relay, entering the competition with a time of 3:35.22. The squad also holds the ACC’s fifth best time this season in the 4x100 meter relay at 44.92 seconds.
Duke will be well represented in the men’s 800 meters—the only event in which the Blue Devils have the maximum six athletes competing. Before the Duke Twilight Meet May 7, only freshman Sean Kelly had achieved the ACC qualifying mark in the event. But four more Blue Devils earned a trip to Tallahassee in front of the home crowd at Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium. Henry Farley, Kyle Francis, Dylan Murphy and Thomas Meister all crossed the line in under 1:51.5, and freshman Jordan Burton will also join the squad for the event.
“Jordan was just two-tenths off the auto mark, so we figured that was a very good use of our wildcard,” Ogilvie said. “Usually the auto mark is a good indicator of who can score, so we don’t use those wildcards too often. But he has a really good chance if he’s peaking at the right time.”
Junior Megan Clark—ACC Indoor Champion and NCAA runner-up in the women’s pole vault—will aim for her first outdoor title this weekend. As the conference's top seed and third-best vaulter in the NCAA so far this outdoor season, the ACC Women’s Indoor Field Performer of the Year will look to jump higher than her season-best clearance of 14 feet, 9 inches.
Freshman Madison Heath, the third seed in the pole vault, also has a chance for a top-three finish this weekend with her season-best mark of 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches.
“Megan obviously has a great shot and Madison is vaulting at levels higher than Megan did when she was a freshman, so the future looks bright for her,” Ogilvie said.
The Florida weather will be a factor in this weekend’s competition, and Ogilvie said he hopes that it will play in the Blue Devils’ favor. With thunderstorm delays likely for all three days of competition, all the athletes will have to stay level-headed and prepared.
“It’s 95 degrees and it’s humid,” Ogilvie said. “That levels the playing field a lot. That gives us a chance if we run smart, especially in the distance events. So we actually feel like the heat could help us. And it’ll be the athlete who handles the weather delays best who can come out on top.”
Competition will begin Thursday at 10 a.m. with the men’s hammer throw.
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