Out on the West Coast, the Blue Devils had their best meet of the outdoor season, earning four national top-20 performances and breaking two school records—one four decades old and one less than four weeks old.
Distance harrier Shaun Thompson and pole vaulter Megan Clark posted two of the top marks in the country, headlining Duke’s four-day trip to the Golden State for the Mt. Sac Relays in Norwalk, Calif., and the Beach Invitational in Long Beach, Calif. Clark rewrote her own record set at the Battle of the Blues two weeks ago with a new outdoor best of 14 feet, 11 inches, and Thompson shattered Robbie Perkins’ 40-year-old record in the 10,000 meters by nearly 10 seconds with a new NCAA top time of 28:47.48.
“I’m pretty thrilled about it,” Thompson said. “When records stand that long, it really shows how competitive those people were. Robbie Perkins ran in the Olympic Trials in his heyday and was really a phenomenal runner all the way around.”
Running in just the second 10-kilometer race on the track of his career, Thompson adopted a more aggressive strategy from his debut performance at the Raleigh Relays in March. Focusing on turning in even splits throughout the 25 laps, the Baldwinsville, N.Y., native found himself pushing the pace of the field from the front of the pack.
Professional harriers Miguel Amador Montilla of Equipo Porvenir and Robert Cheseret pulled away from Thompson to battle for the lead in the final laps, but Thompson finished nearly seven seconds ahead of the next collegiate athlete across the line. His time stands as the fastest in the NCAA so far this season by more than six seconds.
“This is a first for me—being the coach of a number-one runner in the country. This is a big moment for our program,” Duke director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said.
But Thompson said he believes he still has room to improve that time when he faces stiffer competition at the NCAA Southeast regional qualifier in May. With the meet back on the East Coast in Jacksonville, Fla., he also will not be fighting a three-hour time difference the next time he toes the line in his new signature event.
“The day of the race I naturally woke up at 4:30 a.m. their time,” Thompson said. “It was kind of annoying, trying to force myself back to sleep, but by 7:30 I couldn’t sit in bed any longer. But I still had 14 hours left until my race and didn’t know what to do with myself. Up until it was time for me to warm up, I was yawning.”
Also competing against a weaker field in the top open section of the pole vault at the Mt. Sac Relays Friday, Clark cleared her opening height of 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches on her first attempt, guaranteeing herself a top-two finish. Her teammate Madison Heath was the only other competitor in a field of eight to manage the height.
Both Blue Devil vaulters passed on the next height, and Heath took the runway again with the bar set at 14 feet, 1 1/4 inches—her personal-best height. But the sophomore had to settle for 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches and runner-up honors as Clark raised the bar again. Clearing 14 feet, 1 1/4 inches and 14 feet, 7 1/4 inches on her second attempts and 14 feet, 11 inches on her first, Clark cruised past her previous school record but remained second in the national standings. The Fort Benning, Ga., native nearly jumped to the top of the national leaderboard with a strong attempt at 15 feet, 3 inches, but grazed the bar.
The duo took up their poles again Saturday at the Beach Invitational, but the second straight day of competition proved to be taxing. Clark finished third with a mark of 14 feet, 2 inches and Heath took 11th with a clearance of 13 feet, 6 1/4 inches.
“For Megan at the Olympic Trials, she is going to have to go through a qualifying round and then come back two days later if she makes the finals,” Duke associate head coach Shawn Wilbourn said. “I wanted to prepare her a little bit for that and have her experience jumping in meets fairly close together.”
Three Duke field athletes turned in season-best performances in Long Beach. Thomas Lang posted the top mark by a collegiate athlete in his best event, throwing the javelin 237 feet, 2 inches—good for 17th in the NCAA and first in the ACC. In the women’s hammer throw, freshman Stefani Vukajlovic earned a mark of 183 feet, 4 inches on her third and final attempt to move up to second on Duke’s all-time list. Capping off the weekend, redshirt junior Urina Harrell threw the shot put for a personal-best mark of 50 feet, 4 inches—her first time breaking the 50-foot barrier.
The Blue Devils also recorded their share of highlights in the multi-events. After Wednesday’s first four events of the heptathlon, redshirt senior Teddi Maslowski was four points ahead of the day-one total from her school-record performance at the Mt. Sac Relays last year. But she felt the effects of the ankle injury she suffered during the indoor season in the long jump, landing at 18 feet, 11 1/2 inches—more than a foot shy of her program record. Maslowski recorded new personal-bests in both throws of the seven-event competition, the shot put and the javelin, and in the 200-meter dash en route to her 5,569-point final score, good for 16th in the nation.
“Teddi had some injuries, so we haven’t been able to work on some of the technical events, especially the long jump,” Wilbourn said. “But I think that score is going to get us into NCAAs and not have to do another heptathlon so we can continue to let her ankle heal.”
Competing in his first decathlon since his freshman campaign, junior Chaz Hawkins showed marked improvement in the 10-event contest after his stint as a sprint specialist. Hawkins recorded the fastest time of the field in the 100-meter dash, stopping the clock at 10.82 seconds, and the second-fastest time in the 400 meters in 48.64 seconds. His final total of 6,718 outscored his previous personal-best by nearly 350 points.
Maslowski returned to the track Saturday to wrap up Duke’s trip to California with the lead-off leg of the 4-x-400-meter relay. She, Madeline Kopp, Mackenzie Kerr and Maddy Price finished in a combined time of 3:35.07—the fastest collegiate quartet in the field. The Blue Devils were only outrun by a TMBTC squad featuring Olympic medalists Allyson Felix, Dawn Harper-Nelson and Jeneba Tarmoh.
Duke’s three 400-meter specialists had all competed in the individual race before the relay, with Price recording a new personal-best and the meet’s top collegiate time of 53.53 seconds.
“They ran against the best 400-meter sprinter in the country, arguably [in the] world, with Allyson Felix,” Ogilvie said. “That was a great opportunity for them and they really came into their own. It was great to see Madeline Kopp back in top form—she split 52-point on the second leg and that’s very encouraging for things to come.”
The Blue Devils host their second and final home meet of the season this weekend.
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