To get to their meet this weekend, the Blue Devils will not have to go far. In fact, all they will have to do is take a short walk down the steps of Wallace Wade to the starting line in front of what will possibly be the largest turnout a Duke cross country meet has ever seen. Saturday, just fifteen minutes before they meet on the football field, Duke will take on N.C. Central on the track.
According to head coach Norm Ogilvie, who had the idea for the joint start after he saw the similarities between the two teams’ schedules, the runners will loop around the track in front of their fans and then head to the old location of the dual meet, the Sally Meyerhoff Fitness Loop. Though those in the stadium will be unable to see the teams as they finish, the team scores will be announced in Wallace Wade, and during the third quarter of the football game winners of both the men’s and women’s races will be shown on the video scoreboard.
“Cross country is looking forward to the opportunity to allow its runners to compete in an awesome and exciting setting,” Ogilvie said. “Naturally, it’s easier to get fired up when you’re running in front of 30,000 people rather than 300.”
For the men though, there is more than just the incentive of making their fans proud. While Duke’s top ten finishers from its previous meet, the Virginia Tech Invitational, have already earned a trip to next weekend’s Panorama Farms Invitational in Virginia, the rest of the team will be competing Saturday for the Blue Devils’ last empty spot. The Invitational will host several nationally ranked teams and provide the Duke runners with an opportunity to boost their chances of qualifying for the NCAA championship meet.
Though only six of the Blue Devil women are participating, they are also excited for the opportunity to compete in front of a large home crowd. Unlike the men, the women have no additional stakes in the meet and are simply excited for the chance to compete on such a large stage.
“I think it will be a fun a event,” women’s head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “Hopefully it will add something to the fan experience for the people getting ready for the football game.”
As athletes competing in a sport that is not known to be spectator-friendly, cross country runners rarely get a chance to showcase their abilities and feel the support of their fan base. According to some of the Blue Devils, a lot of their excitement for this meet stems from the fact that it will present a chance for them to finally show people what they do.
“It’s the first time a cross country team has tried to do an event that coexists with such a large event, like the football game,” freshman Blake Udland said, “I think that if this could be a trend, whether it’s at our school or across the country, it would be a really cool direction for our sport to go. I think it’s good recognition for what we do.”
Despite all the attention that the venue is getting, the runners are making sure not to lose sight of the fact that the meet is a competition. In the words of junior Phil Farleigh, “there can only be one king of the Bull City.”