GREENSBORO, N.C. – Redshirt senior Cydney Ross and freshman Anima Banks both advance to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships with their performances in the women’s 800 meters on day two of the NCAA East First Round in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, May 24.
The veteran, Ross, went in to the competition focused and with a game plan. She spent much of the race among the leaders to avoid the challenges and mishaps that can happen when running in the pack. The St. Louis, Mo., native finished second in her heat and fifth overall, crossing the line in 2:05.76, to earn the automatic qualifier to her third consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships.
“It feels great,” said Ross. “Every year I work hard and I hope that things come together on the right day and it happens. For this year to have it happen again, it feels great. It shows that all of my hard work paid off and it is nice going there for a third year. I know what to expect and I am really poised to do well this time.”
The rookie, Banks, barely qualified to compete in Friday’s quarterfinal round, grabbing the 24th and final slot. She was seeded in the same heat with Ross but went into the race without expectation or a plan but she was still ready to compete. The Mamaroneck, N.J., ran toward the back of the pack for the majority of the half mile distance but, her ability to race was evident in the final homestretch as she maneuvered her way into fifth place with a time of 2:07.84. Her NCAA Championship qualification was not as instant as Ross’s. Instead, she had to wait for all heats to finish before she knew her time was good enough to earn her the 12th and final advancing spot.
“This was the biggest track meet I have ever been to and I really just went in with no expectations,” said Banks. “I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself and it turns out that that is the best way for me to run a race because it works for me when I go with my instincts throughout the race and not focus on what place to get in, but focus on just running the best race that I can possibly run and it really worked out for me this weekend. I can’t wait to train more and get ready to go to Oregon.”
Once it was official that both had punched themselves a ticket to the NCAA Championships , the duo was all smiles embracing each other. Hugs and cheers were also shared with coaches, teammates, parents and trainers.
“In high school you do not get the same team aspect as you do now,” Banks added. “Running with Cyd throughout the entire year, it feels good to be going together to the next level. It is great to have a fifth year to look up to and help me through it.”
Other key performances of the day came in the 3,000 steeplechase. Senior Esther Vermeer smashed her personal best by nearly 20 seconds, clocking a time of 10:11.94. The Grimsby, Ontario native finished 13th overall, narrowly missing qualifying for the NCAA Championships by .73 seconds. However, the time was good enough to place her third on Duke’s all-time list. Sophomore Shaun Thompson had a strong race in the men’s steeplechase division, finishing in 19th place with a time of 8:59.29.
After two days of regional competition, four Blue Devils have earned their way to the NCAA Championships: Ross (women’s 800), Banks (women’s 800), Austin Gamble (men’s discus) and Curtis Beach (men’s decathlon).
The NCAA East First Round competition will conclude Saturday with Duke represented in three field events: men’s hammer, men’s high jump and women’s javelin. On the track, Duke is hopeful for big performances in the men’s and women’s 5,000 and women’s 4x400 relay.