Although senior Madeline Kopp and junior Madison Heath have been two of Duke’s top performers this year, the duo fell short of expectations this weekend.
Kopp and Heath both garnered second-team All-American honors in the 800 meters and pole vault, respectively, at the NCAA indoor track and field championships Friday and Saturday at Gilliam Indoor Stadium in College Station, Texas.
Still, despite their honors, associate head coach Shawn Wilbourn said Kopp and Heath—who were the lone Blue Devils to qualify for the meet—have enough talent to have performed better, as they did at ACCs just a few weeks ago.
“We’re happy that we got there and we’re happy with the second-team All-American status,” Wilbourn said. “But we’re a little disappointed…. The athletes and the coaches went into the meet expecting to perform at a very high level.”
After clocking the third-fastest time in Duke history at the ACC indoor championships in February, Kopp finished 13th in her preliminary heat in the 800 meters Friday with a time of 2:07.28.
This year marks the first time the Rochester, N.Y., native has specialized in the 800 meters—she mostly ran in the 400 meters throughout her first three years in Durham. Wilbourn said her inexperience in the longer event was evident Friday. Kopp got boxed in and was not able to move up once the runners in the front began their final kick, Wilbourn noted.
“She learned a lot,” Wilbourn said. “She just needs a few more races to kind of learn the strategy of racing in a championship meet in the 800. We expect some big things from her in the outdoor season.”
Heath has not had to adjust to a new event, but her performance at the indoor championships was also short of her other finishes this season. As the lone ACC competitor in the pole vault, the Mandeville, La., native entered the weekend ranked 10th nationally after clearing the bar at 14 feet earlier in the year.
However, she finished tied for 13th Saturday with a bar clearance of 13 feet, 3 1/2 inches.
“It was an off day for her,” Wilbourn said. “She had been practicing really well and looked great. She’s frustrated. It’s a huge learning experience and it’ll be a catalyst for her to do better during the outdoor season.”
With the indoor season now complete, Kopp and Heath will join the rest of the Blue Devils as they prepare for the start of the outdoor season at the Raleigh Relays beginning March 24.
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