Both the men and women’s teams will head to Louisville, Ky. this year after receiving an at-large bid and an automatic bid, respectively, to the national meet.
For the third time in just four years, the Duke men will return to the NCAA Championships.
The team received an at-large bid due to their fifth-place finish at the Southeast Regional meet and previous point-earning performances.
The last time the Blue Devils made it to the national meet, they came together for a solid finish, earning 21st place in a field of 31. This year, though the team has not even made it into the national rankings at this time—receiving fewer votes in the coaches’ poll than Washington, which did not qualify for the Championships—both the runners and head coach Norm Ogilvie are confident that the team’s performance will change people’s minds.
“We’re focusing on the positives and the fact that we think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” Ogilvie said. “The rankings did us a big favor by seeding us dead last at nationals. That’s a great motivator to the guys…. They’re [very] angry. They’re going to prove everybody wrong.”
Senior Mike Moverman will look to lead teammates such as graduate student James Kostelnik, juniors Phil Farleigh, Lucas Talavan-Becker and Brian Atkinson and sophomore Shaun Thompson in Louisville Saturday. These runners will be joined on the course by two men who have stepped up to save Duke in previous meets—senior Dominick Robinson and junior Christian Britto. Both Robinson and Britto posted stellar performances at the regional meet and effectively ensured Duke’s berth into the Championships.
“I’m ready to rock,” Robinson said. “We’re all super happy that we’re here and ready to prove ourselves. It’s the third time in four years, and [the program has not] done that in a long time.”
The women echoed similar sentiments as they prepared to step up to the line for the national meet.
The Blue Devil runners will be led by senior Juliet Bottorff, who, after missing the previous season due to an injury, has proven that she is more than fully recovered by consistently placing first for the team. Unlike Moverman, Bottorff will be racing for a team that is highly ranked in the national polls, currently sitting at No. 10.
The team’s automatic bid-earning performance is a definite improvement upon its previous season, during which only senior Madeline Morgan was able to qualify for the championship meet. Morgan will be returning to the national meet along with graduate student Seujin Ahn, senior Ashley Brasovan, junior Gabby Levac and sophomores Carolyn Baskir and Kelsey Lakowske.
Despite the fact that the team is ranked so highly, the women are trying their best to stay focused only on enjoying their performance and remaining relaxed.
“Practice has gone well this week,” women’s head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “We feel like we’re in good shape heading into [the meet]. The girls know they’ve been ranked well and I think that gives them more excitement that they could do well at a meet like this. But at the same time we’re not focused on numbers and places…. We’ll have a lot of fun together this weekend.”