Intense heat pushed Saturday’s race into the morning, and Duke’s veterans battled through the conditions to lead the team to a finish in the middle of the pack.

Duke finished seventh in the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis Saturday at Les Bolstad Golf Course. The field featured three teams ranked in the top 25 and 14 squads in total. Finishing with 181 points—14 more than sixth-place Navy—and a 7-6 record against their toughest competition of the season so far, the Blue Devils slid to 15-6 on the year. 

Junior Nikhil Pulimood finishing in 18th-place finish with a time of 25:50 time on the eight-kilometer course highlighted the afternoon.

“It was an extremely hot day and that’s kind of a wild card. There was a lot of attrition out there, and it hit our guys a little harder than I would have expected,” head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “The biggest positive is Nikhil inserting himself as a very good collegiate distance runner, and our other members of the top five having a good race in tough conditions.” 

Freshman C.J. Ambrosio was the next Duke runner to cross the finish line with a time of 26:16, but the Blue Devils’ returners took four of their next five spots. Stephen Garrett, a junior, ran a 26:33, and sophomore Cole Hoff finished in 26:50. 

After freshman Josh Romine rounded out Duke’s top five in 26:54, senior Alec Kunzweiler finished sixth out of Duke’s competitors with a time of 27:00, and classmate Jordan Burton was next in 27:14. 

“Stephen Garrett ran a really solid third man for us, the problem was our spread over the top five men for the first two weeks was 30 seconds or so, today it was almost a minute,” Ogilvie said. ““It was kind of like a glass half-full meet for us. Some guys I was really pleased with, and some guys really suffered in the heat. And it was tough—some people had to be taken off in stretchers, literally.”

The freshmen, making up half of the 10-person team the Blue Devils brought to Minnesota, did not fare as well as they had in the past. Duke’s bottom three finishers were all first-year runners.

“The freshman got tested for the first time in their careers. Two of the them passed that test really well—C.J. Ambrosio and Josh Romine did a really nice job—but then three of our freshman kind of struggled,” Ogilvie said. “C.J. Ambrosio stepped up, a freshman that’s been super solid every race he’s been in.”

The freshmen, and the team as a whole, have time to improve before their next big test. The Blue Devils’ next race is the ECU Pirates Invite in three weeks, and the ACC championships are five weeks away.

“What’s positive about having a lot of good freshman is it certainly does incentivize our upperclassmen to run their very best, and we certainly saw that today with Nihkil, we saw it from Garrett, we saw it from Hoff,” Ogilvie said. “We have time to go back to training hard and getting where we need to be.”