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T&F: Beach earns second National Heptathlon title

Posted March 16

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Redshirt senior Curtis Beach, competing in front of a hometown crowd in Albuquerque, N.M., secured his second NCAA Division I Indoor Championships heptathlon title Saturday afternoon, winning the event after amassing a conference record, school record and personal-best total of 6,190 points.

“All 40 or 50 family members and friends came down from the stands and I was hugging everybody,” Beach said. “I think what makes it the best is everybody’s here. It’s my hometown. The same people that were coaching me and supporting me when I was eight are the same ones that are here supporting me at the NCAA Championships. It’s kind of crazy it came full circle. I think no matter if I placed first, second or third, it was still pretty memorable. I’m just happy to have my coaches here who supported me so much, as well as my family and friends, especially in Albuquerque. I’m just soaking up the experience. All I wanted to do was come out and perform my best, and as long as I did that, I’d be happy and satisfied. The fact that my best ended up being an NCAA championship just makes it that much greater.”

Entering the competition in third-place following a personal-best first-day score of 3,310, Beach lost no time in setting the tone for the day, winning his heat in the 60-meter hurdles with a personal-best time of 8.12. The effort moved Beach into second, just 16 points behind the leader with two events remaining.

Beach entered the pole vault, the penultimate event of the heptathlon, at 14-7.25 (4.45). After clearing the height on his second attempt, Beach saw clearances at 14-11.00 (4.55) and 15-3.00 (4.65), both on his first attempt. After a successful clearance at 15-7.00 (4.75) on his third attempt, Beach moved beyond 15-11.00 (4.85), 16-2.75 (4.95) and 16-6.75 (5.05), all on first attempts. With three missed attempts at 16-10.75 (5.15), Beach concluded pole vault competition by improving on his previous indoor personal-best.

Although Beach saw a personal-best pole vault mark fall, numerous competitors posted unbelievable efforts in the event, including an American heptathlon record in the competition at a height of 17-2.75 (5.25). With one event remaining, the 1,000m run, Beach found himself in fourth place, sitting less than 30 points back from first.

For many competitors, the final event of a seven-event competition, especially an event that requires participants to cover a distance of 1,000m, can seem like a daunting task. For Beach, the 1,000 provides an opportunity for him to shine. As Beach has done in the past, he took a commanding lead over his competitors in the final event and finished well ahead of the field, finishing in a time of 2:28.76 and securing his second national indoor championships title.

“He’s a veteran, so he’s been through this before,” Duke Associate Track and Field Head Coach Shawn Wilbourn said. “I think the biggest thing was knowing that he didn’t have to have these miraculous performances in every event. He just had to be steady. That’s pretty much what he was. Yeah, he had a few personal records, but he was consistent and he was steady. I knew as a coach that it would be motivating for him and it would be a big motivational boost for him to compete in front of a home crowd. The great thing for me as a coach is to know that he executed the plan that we discussed and he achieved the goals that he had set for himself. Everything just came together.”

Beach concludes his indoor collegiate career with two national titles and four appearances at the national championships meet. In addition to earning two First Team All-America honors, Beach also garnered a Second Team All-America award. At the conference level, Beach won two ACC titles in the heptathlon, securing Indoor All-ACC recognition in both instances. Beach also excelled in the classroom over his indoor career, being named to the Academic All-ACC team three times and earning an ACC Scholar Athlete of the Year award.

In addition to Beach, redshirt sophomore Karli Johonnot also participated in the national championships, placing 14th in the high jump with a clearance at 5-10.00 (1.78). Johonnot cleared two bars in her first national competition, opening at 5-8.00 (1.73) before posting a height of 5-10.00 (1.78). Johonnot cleared both on second attempts.

“[Johonnot] competed well,” Wilbourn said. “It’s tough competing for the first time [at the national championships]. Being a first time competitor at the NCAAs, you feel the pressure and you don’t do as well, but [Johonnot] came in and did very well to jump 1.78 as a multi-event athlete with the pure high jumpers. I was very happy with the way she competed clearing the two bars.”

The outdoor season for the Blue Devils begins Friday, March 21 at the Carolina Relays in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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