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Clark, Banks earn first-team All-American honors to cap off Duke track and field careers at NCAA championship

<p>Megan Clark finished fifth in the pole vault and concludes her career with indoor and outdoor records in her signature event.&nbsp;</p>

Megan Clark finished fifth in the pole vault and concludes her career with indoor and outdoor records in her signature event. 

Although Duke came up short in the final team standings, several Blue Devils earned All-American honors in their last meet of the 2016 season.

Seniors Megan Clark and Anima Banks, graduate student Shaun Thompson and sophomore Madison Heath captured All-American honors as the 24th-seeded Duke women finished tied for 37th overall at the NCAA outdoor championship at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., Wednesday through Saturday.

With Thompson as its only member to qualify for the championships, the Duke men did not have enough representatives to compete for the team title.

“We had a lot of people where it was their last go-round,” Blue Devil director of track and field Norm Ogilvie said. “This was overall a very good week for us."

Clark became a first-team All-American Thursday by finishing fifth in the pole vault with a clearance of 14 feet, 1 1/4 inches. Clark—who initially cleared the bar with a height of 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches—had an opportunity to secure a top-two finish by clearing 14 feet, 5 1/4 inches, but the Fort Benning, Ga., native clipped the bar with her foot.

The miscue came after Clark elected to skip the previous height after the field had been cut to five to try to secure the top-two placement.

“If she clears one more bar, she’s guaranteed at least second,” Ogilvie said. “It’s a risk. We took the risk and it just didn’t pay off this time. Now it’s paid off a bunch of times in her career.”

Clark’s performance at the championship capped off an illustrious career. She broke the Duke outdoor pole vault record with a clearance of 15 feet, 2 1/4 inches earlier this season and the first-team indoor All-American also holds the Blue Devils' indoor record. Clark will return to Hayward Field July 1-10 for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Banks will join Clark at the trials and capped off the championship Saturday for the Blue Devils, becoming Duke’s second 2016 first-team All-American when she placed sixth overall in the 800 meters.

After finishing second overall in the preliminary heat of the 800 meters Thursday with a time of 2:04.22, Banks posted a 2:03.09 in the final race. The senior used a 59.43 split in the first lap to enter the second and final lap in second place before falling back four spots in the last 400 meters. Banks had an opportunity to finish in the top five, but finished a split-second behind fifth-place finisher Cecilia Barowski of Princeton.

“It was the third-fastest 800 in her life,” Ogilvie said. “She was literally a thousandth of a second from being fifth. [Barowski] had a lead on the outside at the same time Anima did and [Barowski] got the call when they had to look at the photo. So she did a great job.”

Thompson earned second-team All-American honors in the 10,000 meters, clocking a 29:37.41 in his final college race. Despite setting the pace more than halfway through the race, with a time of 15.18.79 in the first 5,200 meters, Thompson drifted back to as far as 21st place before passing six competitors in the final 800 meters and finishing 15th.

Ogilvie said that Thompson should have waited until the second mile or eighth lap to take the lead. Once Thompson dropped back to 21st, Duke’s coaching staff told the Baldwinsville, N.Y., native that he could still be a second-team All-American if he finished the race strong, Ogilive noted.

“Shaun got a little excited and took the lead on the third lap. It’s hard to lead the whole way,” Ogilvie said. “When the field finally did overtake him, sometimes that’s really tough psychologically to hang on and he did let go for a brief time…. We said, ‘Come on. You worked at this too long. This is your last college race. You have to go after it.’ And he did.”

Thompson concluded his Blue Devil career with program records in the 10,000 meters and indoor 5,000 meters.

Sophomore Madison Heath, who joined Clark in competing in the pole vault, also secured second-team All-American honors when she tied for 15th with a clearance of 13 feet, 3 1/2 inches. Heath improved on her finish at last year’s NCAA outdoor championship, when she was unable to advance past the opening height.

Among the other Duke competitors was junior Madison Granger, who placed 23rd with a time of 4:23.92 in 1,500 meters in her first career appearance at NCAAs.

In the women’s heptathlon, redshirt senior Teddy Maslowski finished 18th with 5,382 points. The Burgettstown, Pa., native started off the event tied in 10th place after running the 100-meter hurdles in 13.59 seconds, but dropped back in the high jump and shot put.

Rounding out the Blue Devil competitors was Duke’s 4-x-400 meter women’s relay team of Maslowski, junior Madeline Kopp, freshman Mackenzie Kerr and sophomore Maddy Price, which registered a time of 3:36.30 to finish 20th in the semifinals Thursday. Maslowski and Kopp combined for a 1:48.08 split before Kerr and Price completed the third and fourth legs in 55.50 seconds and 52.72 seconds, respectively.

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