Duke cross country looks to sophomores to bolster depth in post-Bottorff era
A host of new faces will toe the line for Duke this season, but not all the Blue Devils looking for a fresh start are new to the collegiate environment.
Juliet Bottorff, the team’s consistent top finisher and 2013 ACC conference meet champion, wrapped up her final season as the only Blue Devil to reach the national championships, leaving Duke ready to rebuild its roster this year by turning to the sophomore class and a Blue Devil with only one collegiate meet under her belt.
This season promises the chance for sophomore Wesley Frazier to put last year’s setbacks behind her. Expected to make an immediate impact as one of the women’s top finishers, Frazier was only able to compete in one meet in 2013. She contracted the flu early in the year along with several of her fellow freshmen, but returned to practice too soon after her symptoms subsided and relapsed. The Blue Devils' most touted recruit in recent memory was forced to sit out the rest of the season to rest and recover. Then, suffering from injury in February, she missed the entire track season.
“I had never gotten hurt before that and never missed more than a day or two for sickness,” Frazier said. “It was a big setback. It was tough seeing them continue to run. But I supported them and cheered for them.”
The first high school girl to win the “long distance triple”—the 1,600, 3,200 and 5,000 meters—at the New Balance Nationals in June of 2013, Frazier collected eight national titles and 17 All-America honors in her high school career. Now, more than a year removed from that success, Frazier is looking for a fresh start with new head coach Christine Engel.
Engel’s new position was announced in early August after Kevin Jermyn stepped down in July. Serving as the men’s and women’s head coach at Elon for the past six years, Engel’s team competed against the Blue Devils at numerous meets throughout the season, so she is familiar with the program and Frazier’s difficult freshman year.
“[Wesley] is healthy,” Engel said. “I know last year she had some challenges with being sick and so forth but she’s healthy and fit right now. Some athletes use that as a huge source of motivation and commit to that mentality of having a little redemption.”
Frazier’s classmate Hannah Meier also struggled with the illness that ran through East Campus last year, then suffered minor injuries for the remainder of the season. She also will be looking for a healthy, fresh start this season. Her twin sister Haley was able to stay healthy and make an immediate impact, crossing the line as Duke’s third finisher at the ACC Championships and placing 27th overall with a time of 21:26.00 for the 6,000-meter race.
Even with the setbacks the team faced last season, Frazier remains optimistic about the team’s potential this season, hoping that Duke can build confidence and focus less on expectations.
Engel encourages a positive practice environment, and Frazier said that training has even been more fun. With less focus on expectations, the team will have a clean slate and a healthier attitude.
“It’s more about the attitude of the team and our own expectations,” Frazier said. “I was kind of afraid of the expectations for our team this year because last year we kind of blew up. I think as a team we could be in contention at ACCs and some of the bigger meets, surprising a lot of teams. I think some people are writing us off.”