Royals Challenge awaits Duke cross countryAs students head into fall break, top scoring runners on both the men’s and women’s sides will take a respite from competition as their teammates compete in the Royals Challenge Friday.
The race at McAlpine Creek Park in Charlotte, N.C., provides an opportunity for many athletes on both teams to race for the first time this season. On the men’s side, this race will determine which runners will travel to upcoming championship meets.
“We are holding out our top six guys,” men’s head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “They will compete next week at pre-nationals. This meet is essentially a run-off to decide our final team going forward.”
Ogilvie will hold out senior Brian Atkinson, graduate student Mike Moverman, and junior Shaun Thompson, the Blue Devils’ top three scorers at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational. They will continue training at peak mileage through the weekend before the team begins to taper slightly in preparation for the ACC Championships.
Ogilvie said that each team is allowed 10 runners at the Pre-Nationals meet next weekend. Seven of his athletes will run for scoring positions, and the remaining three will compete in the open race. The fastest Blue Devil at the Royals Challenge will earn the seventh scoring position—the next three across the finish line will secure spots in the Pre-Nationals open race.
The stakes are lower for Duke’s women’s team.
“We are running a few kids who haven’t raced yet,” women’s head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “I’m excited to see where people are come race day. I’m hoping we can see some things that are a step up from practice and indicative of something that will strengthen our team in November.”
Graduate student Juliet Bottorff earned her break from competition with her victory at the Notre Dame Invitational last weekend. Following her 16:43.8 time in the 5,000-meter run, Bottorff received a United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association Athlete of the Week honorable mention and was chosen as the ACC Performer of the Week.
“She has had those high-level accolades in the past, but she is so much physically fitter this year and so much better mentally this year,” Jermyn said. “On the flip side, she has to stay humble. It’s a delicate balance between being excited and letting the chips fall where they may or where they should. We have a long ways to go.”
Freshmen Wesley Frazier, Hannah Meier and Haley Meier will also be watching their teammates compete from the sidelines, Jermyn said.
The Blue Devils will race against roughly 45 teams, men and women combined. The majority of Duke’s opponents will be Division II or Division III schools.
“This is not as competitive of a field as we usually run in, so we think this group is capable of winning the meet even though we are leaving out the top six,” Ogilvie said. “If possible, we would like to have someone be the individual winner, but we certainly want to win as a team.”
Jermyn is not as concerned with Duke winning the women’s race.
“I’m looking at this weekend more to see where each person is and what we need to do to help them,” he said. “The goal will be more about getting a race in and challenging them at a competition that is not just all our girls racing each other. We are heading into this race for good competition and challenging conditions. If we win team-wise, that’s a bonus.”