So it is not surprising when she says that one of the reasons she loves throwing the javelin is because of her study of the Greeks and the early days of the Olympics.
“It kind of fascinates me because the javelin is something they have done for so long in the Olympics,” Duerk said. “I have always been pretty obsessed with Greek history.
“It is also just so different. It is not something that you decide to pick up because it looks like it is fun.”
Duerk didn’t exactly seek out the javelin as a track event. At Auburn High School in Auburn, Ala., she was a member of the varsity track team from the seventh through the 12th grades. She wanted to participate in the heptathlon in the eighth grade and discovered that one of the events was the javelin. She also competed in the long jump, high jump, triple jump and the 400-meter hurdles.
“I had no idea the javelin was part of it when I decided to do it,” Duerk said. “I fell in love with it. I thought it was really neat and fun. The next year I asked if I could do it as a regular event.
“I start working on it, and it became one of my best events. It is probably the one I enjoyed the most. I really missed it when I came here. I talked to coach Bill Taylor and he was happy to have me join the team.”
It is an event that requires the mastery of technique on several levels. She has been working with volunteer assistant coach Kyle Willoughby, who threw the javelin at the University of Alabama.
“There is so much technique involved,” Duerk said. “It is crazy. You have to hit your block and have your feet planted every time or you are done. Keeping my arm back is something I had no idea had a huge impact, but that has added 20 feet to my throws. Kyle has definitely improved my technique a lot.”
Duerk, a post player for the Lady Bisons basketball team for the past two years, has been juggling track practice with offseason basketball workouts. She is Biochemistry major with labs on several afternoons.
“I love being busy,” Duerk said. “I love my schedule being planned every day.”
Duerk became involved in track and field due to the influences of her mother, Janet, a former high jumper at Auburn University. She started in a rec program and her mother taught her the high jump.
“I grew up playing soccer and basketball and started volleyball in the eighth and ninth grades,” Duerk said. “I started track when I was 10. I definitely had the track genes and was kind of pushed towards that. I loved it.
“It is so much different from basketball. Yes, it is a team sport, but you are relying a lot on yourself. Your performance isn’t really affected by anyone else’s which is completely different than basketball. I think I just like the change.”
Heading into this week Duerk is ranked first in the Atlantic Sun Conference in the javelin. She earned A-Sun Athlete of the Week April 21 for her school record 134-3 effort at the Vanderbilt Invitational.
Her best result has increased approximately 10 feet each week in each of three meets. She needs a throw in the mid-140s to qualify for NCAA regional competition.
“Hopefully, it won’t be too hard to pull that out by the conference meet,” Duerk said. “We have two more meets before the conference meet. There will be a lot of practice the next two weeks. There is a lot of technique to work on, but it is getting better.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.