Pole vaulter Megan Clark has focused her 2015 season on “Project four-sixty”— jumping 4.60 meters, or 15 feet, 1 inch. Thursday, she will have one more chance to achieve her goal.
Clark and four other Blue Devils will compete in the NCAA outdoor national championships June 10-13 at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., after four of them qualified by finishing in the top 12 of their signature events at the regional meet. All five Duke competitors will head into the meet ranked in the nation’s top 20.
Clark is among the top women’s pole vaulters in the country and some of the nation’s other top vaulters—Arkansas’ Sandi Morris, Stephen F. Austin’s Demi Payne and Memphis’ Carolina Carmichael—all advanced from the regional qualifying meets. The Fort Benning, Ga., native jumped 14 feet, 9 inches at the Duke Invitational April 10—the same mark that earned her second place at the NCAA indoor championships in mid-March.
“The goal is to have her very best vault,” director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “She has a good shot at the podium again. And how cool would it be to have two Duke women score in the pole vault?”
Clark will be joined in Eugene by Madison Heath, one of only two freshmen ranked in the poll. Entering the competition ranked No. 19 with a personal best of 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches, Heath and No. 7 Desiree Freier of Arkansas will be the only rookies on the runway Thursday.
“It’s extremely impressive to qualify as a freshman,” Ogilvie said. “There is a lot of technique in the event. Megan has been a great role model for Madison, but now Madison is ready to push Megan.”
Teddi Maslowski will open competition for the Blue Devils Wednesday with the first slate of events for the women’s heptathlon—the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200-meter dash. The redshirt junior earned her trip to Eugene with a 5,706-point performance at the Mt. Sac Relays April 17, when she recorded a season or career best in six events en route to three school records. The Burgettstown, Pa., native holds Duke’s top all-time scoring mark in the heptathlon, as well as school records in the long jump at 6.31 meters and the 100-meter hurdles in 13.38 seconds.
Maslowski claimed the bronze in the long jump at the ACC outdoor championships with a mark of 20 feet, 2 1/2 inches, and was poised for another podium finish in the heptathlon after the first day of the conference competition but was forced to withdraw due to a lower-leg injury.
“She sustained what a lot of the trainers are calling an eight-week injury but only had five weeks to the NCAAs,” Ogilvie said. “She has been cleared by the doctors here in Eugene. She’s not 100 percent, so she’s going to compete on guts. And she’s an extremely gutsy athlete.”
Redshirt junior Thomas Lang is seeded eighth in his signature event, the javelin, with a mark of 228 feet, 11 inches. He qualified for the event with a season-best throw of 231 feet, 8 inches, to claim his second consecutive ACC title. Lang claimed each of those titles with big efforts on his final attempt of the competition, propelling him up the leaderboard. The Royersford, Pa., native finished 11th at the NCAA championships last year.
With her personal-best mark of 180 feet, 3 inches in the discus from the NCAA preliminary round, graduate student Erica Brand is seeded eighth based on performances at the two regional meets. The Shawnee, Kan., native returns to the outdoor national stage for the first time since her sophomore season in the 2012.
“It’s certainly the goal for both throwers to finish First-Team All-American, and it would be great for Erica for her final competition as a Blue Devil,” Ogilvie said. “She surprised everyone with her throw in Jacksonville. And Thomas—we are calling him Mr. Clutch now—can be very competitive with a lot of these guys this weekend.”
This year’s competition will feature a change in the scheduling format. The women will compete Thursday and Saturday, and the men will compete Wednesday and Friday—with the exception of the women’s heptathlon and men’s decathlon Wednesday and Thursday.
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