Although the Blue Devil men stepped up to the starting line at the Panorama Farms Invitational eager for a point-earning performance, they left with dashed hopes after injuries forced several runners off the course.
The men who competed were able to secure a fifth-place finish for their team but could not accomplish Duke’s overarching goals of finishing ahead of both Virginia and No.22 Arkansas.
After winning their first two meets and returning top runners Mike Moverman and James Kostelnik to their line-up, the men seemed slated for success at their first truly competitive meet of the season. Despite the strength of the field and the presence of ranked schools such as No. 4 Oklahoma, the Blue Devils were optimistic about their chances of finishing ahead of one of the stronger teams and earning points towards qualifying for the NCAA Championship meet in November.
Even before they arrived at the course on race day, though, things began to go wrong. In the week leading up to the meet, top runner Domenick DeMatteo was diagnosed with bronchitis, and it was soon evident that he would be unable to run. Head coach Norm Ogilvie decided to take Lucas Talavan-Becker, the next runner in line, to the meet and it seemed as though aside from the loss of DeMatteo, the race would continue as planned for the rest of the men. Once the race started however, sophomore Alec Klassen, began to suffer from knee pain and dropped out of the competition. The rest of the men, including Kostelnik, continued the race. Around the 5K mark, that changed when an Achilles issue forced Kostelnik to stop as well. The rest of the runners, led by sophomore Shaun Thompson, made it across the finish line, though freshman William Rooney did so by crawling on his hands and knees due to severe dehydration. Rooney was taken to the hospital to recover as soon as he completed the race.
“We had a couple things go against us,” Ogilvie said. “We lost a couple guys and that always hurts. The good news is that Shaun Thompson and Dominick Robinson stepped up with really good races…. Lucas Talavan-Becker, frankly, saved us.”
Thompson finished first for the Blue Devils with a time of 24:39.4 and was 18th overall. He was followed by Robinson, who crossed the line less than four seconds later and junior Brian Atkinson, who finished in 25:11.9. Mike Moverman finished his first meet in over a year with a time of 25:25.8 and Talavan-Becker rounded out the top five for the team in 25:38.9. Talavan-Becker had been expected to finish in eleventh place for the team, but the unusual circumstances combined with his ability to step up under pressure made him a strong contributor in this past weekend’s meet.
Despite the rough weekend, the Blue Devils are unwilling to let one meet’s results bring them down.
“It was a little bit of a disappointing meet,” Thompson said, “But it’s by no means a reflection of how the season is going to turn out.”