CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Redshirt sophomore Thomas Lang and freshman Haley Meier each earned a first-place finish Saturday on the final day of the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Chapel Hill, N.C. In the team competition, the Duke women’s team placed fourth for the second consecutive year with a three-day total of 70 points. The men’s team also placed fourth with 81 points, the fourth time in school history the Blue Devils finished fourth in the team competition.
The final day of the conference championships opened in exciting fashion with the men’s javelin throw. Lang entered the event with the farthest throw in the conference, owning a personal-best mark of 227-1.00 (69.83).
Lang reached the finals after a self-admittedly shaky start. With a foul on his first attempt and a mark of 187-7 (57.80) on his second attempt, the Royersford, Pa., native found himself with one throw remaining to secure a spot in the final. On his final attempt of the first round, Lang sent the javelin 212-3.00 (64.70), qualifying him for finals and leading the field after three throws.
“Coming into it, we thought one of two things,” said Duke Throws Coach B.J. Linnenbrink. “We thought people would either shut down because of the weather or people were going to be super amped. In the end, that’s what it turned into. It just goes to show, if you can get off a good throw in the first three, you can put yourself in position to have a final say in the competition. That’s what Tommy did today.”
With little movement among the field through the first two throws of the final round, the championship came down to the attempts of the final three competitors. Ethan Shalaway of Pittsburgh moved into first with a mark of 212-5 (64.74) on his final throw before North Carolina’s Houston Summers sent the javelin 65.22 (214-0), taking the lead and moving Lang to third.
“I tried not to dwell on it too much,” Lang said. “I turned away for the last few throws. I went from first to third really fast. It was a lot like states my senior year of high school, where I went from hanging around the top most of the competiton to having to respond in my last throw.”
Lang adjusted his backwards hat, shook out his throwing arm, strode toward the infield and let the implement fly as he fell to the ground on his follow through. The javelin landed at a personal-best mark of 229-1.00 (69.83) on his final attempt of the event, earning him the victory. Lang is the first Blue Devil javelin thrower to win the conference championship since 2010 and the fourth in school history.
“My family is here,” Lang said. “My friends are here. I’m competing against some really good friends. These guys are awesome. This is a really tight conference with a really great group of guys and we all push each other to do our best.”
Joining Lang in scoring for the Blue Devils in the javelin included juniors Zach Robertshaw, who posted a mark of 192-8.00 (58.72) and placed sixth, and Ian Rock, who followed a second-place finish in the decathlon one day earlier with a seventh-place finish in the javelin. Rock recorded a distance of 191-5.00 (58.34) on his second attempt of the competition.
Duke’s three participants in the men’s javelin combined for 14 points.
On the track, Meier found herself with an opportunity to showcase her speed over the final 400m in a strategic women’s 1,500 final, winning in a time of 4:30.33. Meier covered the last lap in under 62 seconds. With the field tightly bunched together through 1,100 meters, Meier dropped the pace considerably, running the final 400m over eight seconds faster than her third lap and 15 seconds faster than her second lap. The Grosse Point Farms, Mich., native became the third Blue Devil to win the women's 1,500 at the conference championship and the second in four years.
"I knew coming in here it would be a stacked field," Meier said. "I tried to get out strong and slow the race down at the beginning. We went out really slow and easy the first three laps. I started to pick it up on the third lap and when the last lap hit everyone started going. I composed myself, told myself, 'stay here, wait until the 200 and think like a sprinter,' and then I tried to hold on, all the way to the line."
Graduate student Juliet Bottorff put in a valiant effort to earn the 5,000/10,000 double, however the Newark, Del., native ran out of ground, placing second in the 5,000 Saturday clocking a time of 16:15.82. Virginia Tech’s Sarah Rapp jumped out to an early lead and opened a substantial gap on the rest of the field before, with a mile remaining, Bottorff made a move to reel in Rapp. Covering the final mile in nearly five minutes, Bottorff just fell short of catching Rapp as she crossed the line in second.
Junior Shaun Thompson ran a tough race in the men’s 5,000, placing fifth in a time of 14:03.57. Thompson took the lead with a mile remaining and strung out the field behind him. A pack of four responded to Thompson’s move, however the Baldwinsville, N.Y., native held the position with one lap to the finish. At the 400m mark, the pack moved around Thompson, but with 250m remaining, Thompson made one last effort to win the race. The effort from leading earlier proved too much for Thompson, who could not hold the lead, finishing fifth.
In the men’s 1,500, junior Nate McClafferty placed sixth in a time of 3:51.70. Similar to the women’s 1,500, the men’s final proved tactical, with less than a second separating the first and last runner through the 1,100m mark. McClafferty closed in 54.82 over the final quarter mile, passing five runners to earn his sixth-place finish.
Both the women’s and men’s 4x100m relays scored for the Blue Devils as the women’s team of juniors Alexis Roper, Lauren Hansson and Elizabeth Kerpon and freshman Madeline Kopp placed fifth in a time of 46.07. For the men, the quartet of freshman Ryan Smith, redshirt junior Issac Blakeney, redshirt freshman DeVon Edwards and senior Marcus Wright crossed the line in a time of 41.15 to take sixth.
Later in the competition, Kopp returned to the track for the open 400, placing sixth in a time of 55.06. Kopp was one of only two freshman to compete in the final.
Kerpon also stepped onto the track following the 4x100, competing in the final of the 200m dash. Kerpon placed sixth, narrowly missing a fifth-place finish by .008 seconds after clocking a time of 23.83.
The Duke women collected seven additional points with sophomore Anima Banks and junior Abby Farley placing fifth and sixth, respectively in the final of the 800. Banks finished in a time of 2:08.13 while Farley, coming off a personal-best effort in the preliminary rounds, ran a time of 2:11.04.
The 4x400 foursome of Kopp, Hansson, Kerpon and Farley closed competition on the track for the women’s team, placing fourth in the event with a time of 3:38.10. The finishing time ranks second on Duke’s all-time list.
The women’s high jump saw redshirt sophomore Karli Johonnot contribute three points to Duke’s total with a sixth-place finish. Johonnot, who placed seventh in the heptathlon one day earlier, cleared 5-10.00 (1.78) on her first attempt but the Las Vegas, Nev., native was unable to clear 5-11.25 (1.81). Johonnot missed just once in her progression leading up to her sixth-place finishing height.
Freshman Amarie Bremel added a point to Duke’s total with an eighth-place finish in the discus. The Kingsburg, Calif., native reached the final with her best throw of the day, 146-9.00 (44.74), on her third attempt of the competition. Bremel was one of only two freshman to reach the finals.
In the men’s field events, redshirt senior Austin Gamble placed fourth in the discus, posting a mark of 177-11 (54.23) on his second attempt in the finals.
Senior Justin Amezquita and Rock placed fourth and eighth, respectively, in the men’s pole vault. Amezquita tied with two other competitors in clearing 16-10.75 (5.15), while Rock saw a clearance at 16-0.75 (4.90) for his eighth-place finish.
Although the conference championships concluded, a number of competitions remain on Duke’s schedule this season, with the Penn Relays as the next scheduled contest for the Blue Devils. The Penn Relays are set for Thursday, April 24, through Saturday, April 26.