JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duke track and field team saw significant success on day one of the NCAA East Preliminary Round competition in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, as graduate student Juliet Bottorff, senior Brian Atkinson and redshirt sophomore Thomas Lang all qualified for the national championship meet with top-12 finishes in each of their respective events.
Adding to Duke’s success, sophomore Anima Banks and junior Abby Farley reached the semifinal round of the 800, freshman Haley Meier advanced in the 1,500 and redshirt sophomore Teddi Maslowski not only set a school record in the 400 hurdles, but also reached the semifinal round of the event.
Lang kick started the action for the Blue Devils in the men’s javelin, placing seventh overall in the event with a mark of 227.00 (69.20) on his first attempt of the competition. Although a significant lightning delay postponed the third flight of the event for nearly three hours, Lang remained composed and calm heading into the competition.
“From a mechanics standpoint, [Tommy] kept throwing away his left side today, but despite that, he was still able to rattle off what I thought was a pretty solid series,” Duke throws coach B.J. Linnenbrink said. “We talked about coming out and smoking one on the first three, and he did it on the first throw. This meet is all about the mental preparation and being able to come out and be ready to take long breaks in between throws. We ended up with a big rain delay today but we kept talking about focusing on the first three throws. He’s in a real good spot mentally right now.”
Lang’s first attempt of the day advanced the Royersford, Pa., native into the final round, and although Lang was unable to improve on his preliminary round best, the mark held up for seventh place, qualifying him for his first national championship. Lang is the sole representative from the ACC to qualify for the meet in the javelin.
“That was really our game plan in attacking this meet, having a strong first throw,” Lang said. “We changed things up the last couple weeks to work towards that. That’s how we went about it today. Luckily things paid off because otherwise it would have been a failed plan of attack. I was really happy. It’s the best I’ve ever opened.”
After the Blue Devils opened the day with a national-qualifying effort, it seemed only appropriate to conclude Thursday in similar fashion. Atkinson, competing in the final men’s track event of the evening, the 10,000, earned his first bid to the NCAA championship after placing 10th in a time of 29:57.49. A product of Melbourne Beach, Fla., Atkinson proved well-conditioned for the humidity that surrounded Hodges Stadium during the race.
“Brian has done such a good job over the last four years,” said Director of Track and Field Norm Ogilvie. ”This has always been the goal, to make nationals in the 10,000 as a senior. Throughout the four years, he kept working on his weaknesses and always trying to figure out how to close at the end. Tonight he put it all together. He had a great training plan leading up. He was confident. The most important thing was that he was up in the front early, and when the pack moved up a little, he always responded.”
For Atkinson, as a senior, the opportunity to extend his season one more meet was a motivating factor in how he approached the evening’s race.
“I was thinking about, ‘this is it,’” Atkinson said. “I’ve been steadily progressing since freshman year and I thought I really wanted to get to that national level and maybe shoot for an All-American spot. This was my last shot and I thought, ‘What do I have to lose? Let’s go for it.’”
In the women’s 10,000, Bottorff qualified for the national championship with a sixth-place finish after clocking a time of 33:55.49. Bottorff is no stranger to competing at the national level, qualifying for the same meet for the third time in her collegiate career, including winning the NCAA 10,000 in 2012.
Although a lead pack separated itself from the rest of the field, Bottorff calmly tucked herself into the front of the chase group and cruised to her sixth-place finish, not overexerting herself en route to her national-qualifying position.
Thursday’s competition also included numerous preliminary heats of events. Maslowski opened competition on the track for the Blue Devils with a 13th-place finish in the 400 hurdles. The Burgettstown, Pa., native clocked a school record time of 58.35, improving on the previous record that stood since 2002. Maslowski once again opens competition on the track for Duke Friday, competing in the women’s 100 hurdles.
The duo of Farley and Banks moved on in the 800 after placing second and third in their respective heats, automatically qualifying both for the semifinals of the event. Farley, who ran a time of 2:06.51, competes in her first NCAA East Preliminary Round meet while Banks, who finished in 2:06.81, is participating in her second. Both are scheduled to toe the line for the semifinal round of the 800 tomorrow at 7:15 p.m.
Meier continued to post an impressive freshman campaign at 1,500m Thursday after qualifying for the semifinal round of the event with a 16th-place finish. Meier automatically qualified after placing second in her heat in a time of 4:20.35. Meier looks to extend her season with a top-12 performance in the event on Saturday.
The women’s 400 saw freshman Madeline Kopp improve on her own school record in the event, placing fourth in her heat and 24th overall with a time of 53.73. Finishing one hundredth of a second behind the 23rd-place finisher, Kopp narrowly missed qualifying for the next round of competition. Joining Kopp in the 400 was junior Lauren Hansson, who also ran a personal-best time of 54.26, placing her 34th overall.
Sophomore Megan Clark opens the competition for Duke on Friday with the women’s pole vault at 12 p.m.