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Duke track and field sends 19 to NCAA East preliminary round ahead of NCAA championship

<p>Teddi Maslowski has already qualified for the NCAA championship in the heptathlon but will compete in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles at regionals this weekend.</p>

Teddi Maslowski has already qualified for the NCAA championship in the heptathlon but will compete in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles at regionals this weekend.

After sending five competitors to last year's NCAA championship, the Blue Devils hope to send a larger contingent in 2016 with a good showing at this weekend's regional. 

Nineteen Duke athletes will travel to Jacksonville, Fla., to compete in the NCAA East preliminary round Thursday through Saturday at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium. In order to earn bids to the national championship in Eugene, Ore., the Blue Devils will have to in the top 12 in their respective events. Six Duke standouts are seeded in the top 12 to start the event.

“It’s all about finishing in the top 12. Twelfth equals first. Either of those places is the same thing because the outcome is that you get to go to Eugene for the finals,” Norm Ogilvie, Duke director of track and field, said. “Right now, everybody’s really working with their event coach focusing on technique."

Seniors Megan Clark and Anima Banks will lead the Blue Devils to Florida coming off strong performances at the ACC championship May 13-15 in Tallahassee, Fla. 

Despite receiving a silver medal in her signature event—the pole vault—Clark is still seeded first in the entire region with a program and ACC record of 15 feet 2 1/4 inches, and Banks is seeded third in the 800 meters with a personal record of 2:02.50, her time from two weeks ago. 

After finishing second in the 1,500 meters at the ACC championship, the Mamaroneck, N.Y., native turned around an hour later to run the second-fastest time in program history in the 800-meter event.

For the Duke women, Madison Granger, Madison Heath and the 4x400 relay team consisting of Teddi Maslowski, Madeline Kopp, MacKenzie Kerr and Maddy Price are the other participants seeded within the top 20 entering the weekend. 

Granger is seeded seventh in the 1,500 meters, Heath will join Clark in the pole vault with the No. 9 seed—both qualified for the NCAA championship in 2015—and the 4x400 relay squad is seeded 13th.

Maslowski has already qualified to compete in the heptathlon at NCAAs for the second straight year and will also be racing in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles this weekend.

On the men’s side, graduate student Shaun Thompson will be back in action in his signature 10,000-meter race with the No. 2 seed and a personal-best time of 28:47.48. 

After racing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000 meters at the ACC championship, Thompson looks to qualify for the NCAA championship for the second time this year. The Baldwinsville, N.Y., native finished 94th in the NCAA cross country championship last fall.

Ogilvie said he is not concerned with Thompson's time in the 10,000 meters—an event in which he holds the program records—as long as he qualifies.

“It doesn’t matter if [Thompson finishes] 10th or 11th. In fact, that might even be better because it means that you’re able to rest a little more,” Ogilvie said. “It’s all about place. We don’t care about time.”

Thomas Lang is the fourth Blue Devil hoping to return to NCAAs, as the redshirt senior hopes to make a third straight appearance in the men's javelin.. But Lang is right on the cusp of traveling to Eugene, as he enters the regional meet seeded 12th. 

The two-time ACC champion is coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2016 conference championship.

The other Duke participants this weekend will hope to outperform their seeding and set new personal-bests in Jacksonville. 

“The season comes down to this weekend," Ogilvie said. "It’s all about keeping a cool head.”

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