This weekend the Duke men and women will split up as they head to meets in Madison, Wis., Charlotte, N.C. and Louisville, Ky.
Two out of the Blue Devils’ three meets this weekend will provide them with a chance to earn points toward qualifying for the NCAA Championship meet in November.
Tomorrow, the men will step up to the line in Louisville to take on a field of 39 teams. The race, which takes place on the same course as the NCAA Championship meet, provides not only an opportunity for point-earning, but also a chance for Duke’s less experienced runners to get a feel for the course before November.
“Our training has been very good the past couple weeks so we’re excited about where we are,” men’s head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “I think we’re in a really good place…. This is a super opportunity. There are nine teams that, I think, will be at the NCAA Championships so that gives us nine chances to beat someone significant.”
In order to beat a nationally-ranked foe, however, the team will need to overcome devastating injuries. After losing Domenick DeMatteo prior to the previous meet due to bronchitis and then having several runners drop out during the race, the Duke men have yet to prove themselves in a major test. DeMatteo, though well on his way to recovery, will be forced to sit out this meet as well.
“We’re looking at it from a realistic standpoint,” sophomore Shaun Thompson said. “Everyone wants to go into a race to take first but that just isn’t realistic. We want to go in and beat some [nationally-ranked] teams, because some of them are beatable and we have the talent and [work ethic] and the runners to do it.”
Thompson, who has taken the lead at many of the Blue Devils’ previous meets, will be joined at the top of Duke’s lineup by graduate student James Kostelnik, seniors Mike Moverman and Dominick Robinson and junior Brian Atkinson, whom Ogilvie called the team’s “bread and butter group.”
On the women’s side, eight runners will compete Friday in the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational. The rest of the Blue Devil squad will step up to the line in Charlotte, N.C. just two and a half hours later to compete in the Royal Cross Country Challenge.
The women chosen to go to Wisconsin have had strong results in practice and are healthy and ready to run, women’s head coach Kevin Jermyn said. Although the team will be without Kayla Hale, who is unavailable due to sickness and will be replaced by sophomore Carolyn Baskir, this group will make up the bulk of the team that travels to the NCAA Championship meet in November.
Those runners will, like the men, have a chance to earn qualifying points today as they face off against several nationally-ranked opponents. The women are not focusing on specific teams or the competition in general, but are trying instead to get excited about the race.
“We’re really trying not to put any pressure on ourselves,” senior Juliet Bottorff said. “We’re all having a ton of fun out here and… we’re looking at it more as more people to help push us, not more people to be scared of.”
Bottorff will be joined by senior Madeline Morgan, who raced alone in the NCAA Championship meet in 2011, as well as a few less experienced runners such as sophomores Carolyn Baskir and Kelsey Lakowske. Facing a tough field that features more than 20 nationally-ranked teams, the women are confident in their abilities after a series of strong practices.
“We’re looking forward to running hard and seeing what we can do,” Bottorff said.