EUGENE, Ore. – Senior Brian Atkinson concluded his career as a member of Duke’s track and field team in spectacular fashion Wednesday, garnering Second Team All-America honors after placing 14th overall in the final of the 10,000 on the opening day of competition at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
In addition to garnering All-America honors, Atkinson placed first out of the four ACC competitors in the contest, crossing the line in 29:48.11. He also finished fourth out of the 12 East region participants.
“[Brian] ran smart, he ran tough, and he got it done,” said Duke’s Director of Track & Field Norm Ogilvie. “It worked out, and he definitely made it with room to spare. It was just an outstanding race for him. I’m really proud of him, and you just have to feel great for him to know how much better he did against the guys from the East.”
In front of 9,165 spectators at historic Hayward Field, Atkinson hoped to follow a similar strategy to that of his preliminary round race, positioning himself toward the front of the field, staying connected with the pack, holding a steady pace, and ultimately maintaining a cushion that would allow him to remain in contention for a top-16 finish (the All-America requirement).
With a pack of four runners pulling away from the rest of the field by the first mile, 12 positions remained for those hoping to earn All-America honors. Rather than attempt to go with the leaders, Atkinson placed himself solidly in the middle of the field, clocking a first mile of 4:38.84. Atkinson displayed his consistency, running a nearly identical time over the second mile, going through in 9:18.90 and sitting in 15th place. The field established an honest pace early in the race, with Atkinson passing the 5,000-meter mark in a time of 14:36, on pace for a 15-second personal record.
Although temperatures seemed a moderate 75 degrees at the start of the race, the weather played a factor in the later stages of the event as the pace slowed considerably for those in the chase packs. No stranger to uncomfortably warm conditions as a native of Melbourne Beach, Fla., Atkinson remained composed, averaging under 74 seconds per lap over the fourth mile and allowing just one lap over 74 seconds in the fifth mile. Over the second half of the race, Atkinson held his position before moving into 14th and securing his status as an All-American.
Atkinson, the third 10,000m runner in Duke history to garner All-America honors at the distance, concludes his career with a personal-best time of 29:27.85 (run at the Raleigh Relays in March), which ranks fourth on Duke’s all-time list.