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Duke track and field's women’s team shines at NCAA east regionals

After faltering slightly at the ACC outdoor championships earlier this month, the Blue Devils looked to make a push in the NCAA east regionals to qualify for the NCAA championships.

23 members of Duke’s track and field teams - 14 women and nine men - traveled to Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, FL. for the NCAA east preliminary round from Thursday to Saturday, competing for bids to the NCAA championship in Austin, TX. Last year, Duke qualified six athletes for the NCAA championships. 

But this year, the Blue Devils matched their program-record, sending 10—all of them from the women’s team. 

Before competition even began on Thursday, one Blue Devil had already secured her spot in the NCAA championships. Sophomore Erin Marsh automatically qualified after her second place finish in the heptathlon in the ACC outdoor championships. She posted a school-record performance in the heptathlon and currently ranks fourth in the country. 

Two Blue Devils qualified for nationals on the first day of competition. Senior Stefani Vukajlovic registered a toss of 62.23m on her first toss in the hammer throw competition, placing her seventh in the field of 48. Freshman Monica Hebner impressed in the 10,000m, placing 11th with a time of 33:52.83, a monstrous 30-second PR. 

On Friday, one of the men nearly booked a trip to nationals, with sophomore Alex Miley placing one spot short of qualifying in the 3000m steeplechase, with a 13th place finish in a time of 8:49.05. Despite not qualifying, Miley’s time was historical as it was the fourth-fastest time in program history. 

Two more athletes from the women’s team booked their ticket to Austin on Friday, with senior Nati Sheppard and sophomore Lauren Hoffman becoming the fourth and fifth Blue Devils to qualify. Sheppard tied for 11th in the pole vault with a height of 4.07m. Hoffman placed 12th in the 400m hurdles with a time of 57.92, a 0.41-second improvement from her time in the first round, and the second-fastest time in Duke outdoor history. 

On the last day of competition, one more individual sealed their ticket to nationals, with senior Domonique Panton qualifying in the triple jump. She placed sixth overall with a leap of 13.36m, crushing her previous best of 12.87m. 

The past three seasons, Duke has sent its women’s 4x400m relay team to nationals ,and the current year’s team looked to make it four in a row. The Blue Devils returned three members of last year’s team - seniors MacKenzie Kerr and India Lowe and junior Brittany Aveni. This year’s team was rounded out by sophomore Lauren Hoffman. Once again they impressed, clocking the third-best time in Duke outdoor history with a time of 3:32.84, good for a 6th place finish and qualifying three more athletes for nationals. Their mark was also the fastest ACC finish in the field of 24. 

Duke’s qualifying athletes will compete at the NCAA championships in Austin, TX June 5-8. 

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