DURHAM, N.C. -- With three individuals and a 4x400 meter relay heading to Eugene, Ore., for the 2014 Outdoor Track & Field Championship, GoDuke.com caught up with Duke’s competitors for a Q&A leading up to the national competition.
Today’s Q&A features graduate student Juliet Bottorff. Bottorff qualified for her fourth NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship after placing sixth overall in the women’s 10,000 with a time of 33:55.49 at the NCAA East Preliminary Round meet in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, May 29. Bottorff also ran the second-fastest time in school history in the 5,000, clocking a time of 15:58.78 en route to a third-place finish overall, qualifying her for the NCAA Championship in both events.
Hometown: Newark, Del.
High School: Tatnall
Kevin Jermyn (Duke Associate Track & Field Coach) on Bottorff at Nationals: [Juliet’s] already been more consistent than any other runner I’ve ever had, so I feel like it’s an opportunity for her to run her strongest event. I feel like this has been a really successful year to date, so it’s her area of greatest strength. I feel like she’s most excited about this national championship, even more so than the two previous. She also redshirted last year in outdoor, so it’s really been two years since she ran a 10,000 at the NCAA Championships. She’s super excited to run in the event. It’s nice that she can come back and run in a second event, as well, but she feels like she’s in the best physical fitness and racing mindset she’s ever been in. We’re excited for the opportunity and feel really confident she’s ready to go out there and push herself to a level she’s never been before.
GoDuke.com: What does it mean to you to qualify for nationals for the fourth time?
Juliet Bottorff: It’s still really exciting. I guess this is going to be my fourth trip out for outdoor nationals, but I think I’ve had something a little different every single time. My freshman year was a huge surprise in the 5k, my sophomore year was the first time I ran 10k, so that was really cool, too. My junior year, I was coming off of injury, so I was over the moon to qualify again, just because I had no idea where I was, fitness-wise. This year I doubled for the first time, so honestly, I was pretty confident qualifying for the 10k, but for the 5k, I had no idea how I was going to feel coming back from the 5k. Kevin kept telling me, ‘I’m really not worried,’ because I kept going to him asking, ‘What if they do this, what if this happens? Are you sure?’ Afterwards I was very excited, and more than anything, I was excited to get through the weekend without completely trashing myself so I can go into nationals feeling like that’s my biggest and best race to come.
GoDuke.com: Can you explain the atmosphere of Hayward Field?
JB: I’ve actually only run there one other time, which was my freshman year. The other two years nationals were held in Iowa, which was really fun for me because I have family out there, but it’s not the same as Eugene. I’m really excited to go back. My freshman year was an amazing experience and it was a huge eye opener. I had no idea that anywhere in the country valued track that much and got that excited about track. Literally you drive in from the airport and you see the Oregon track team on billboards along the highway, the same way you’d see an NBA team. It’s famous out there and everyone just appreciates the sport of track and field. It really is Tracktown USA. It’s so much fun and you can’t help but feel a part of it while you’re out there. It’s just really exciting to have the whole community around you and all the other runners there.
GoDuke.com: What does it mean for you to have this opportunity to showcase everything you’ve done here at Duke at the national championship?
JB: I don’t know if I can really put it into words. I don’t think I knew I could focus on something this much until I focused on this meet. I’m unbelievably excited for it. I feel more prepared than I’ve ever been and I just want a great meet this weekend to be the end of my career, just to show everything I’ve done and showoff our whole program, including our coaches and everything Kevin’s done. I do feel like it’s a little bit of everything from my entire five years here, going into this one meet. It’s just kind of a cool feeling. I don’t know if I can put it into words.
GoDuke.com: How does having prior experience competing at the national meet help you prepare for the 2014 NCAA National Outdoor Track & Field Championship?
JB: It helps a lot, especially comparing it to my freshman year when I had no idea I would be going, and then I ended up there and I was just this wide-eyed freshman. I had no idea what I was doing. There were 24 people in the race and I think I finished 21st. I had no idea what I was doing. I got blown out of the water while I was there. Having experience there, and being able to tell myself that I know I belong, from a mental aspect, regardless of my fitness, which I do think is better than ever, but regardless of that, I think from a mental aspect, I’m going to put myself in the race, and I’m not going to let someone pass me without a fight. There’s different expectations and knowing you belong creates a whole new level of relaxation and confidence during the race that can hopefully lead to good things.
GoDuke.com: What was the greatest memory you’ve had here at Duke, competing on the track team?
JB: Honestly, the race that stands out is when I won [nationals] in 2011, just because that was the most surreal moment of my life. I don’t know if that will ever be beat because I was so shocked by that. One of the things I’m going to miss the most when I leave is going to be traveling with the team, for sure. I feel like no matter how close you can be on campus, you always have other things going on. During track, especially with the other event groups, you don’t really practice all that much together, but when you go on a trip like this, with Tommy [Lang], the 4x400, indoor nationals with the high jumpers and Curtis [Beach], just all of the different event groups, we all come together at these meets. We all come together and explore a new city, so there’s a little exploration. You can’t help but get closer to that group and just feel Duke pride in a new area. I think what I’m going to miss most is traveling and exploring new places with the team.