The Blue Devils hope to build on a 30th place finish at the NCAA Championships last year with three top runners returning to lead the team.
With a team goal to return to the NCAA Championships for the fourth time in five years, the maturity of co-captains senior Brian Atkinson and fifth-year senior Mike Moverman, as well as junior Shaun Thompson, will be key for motivating less-experienced members of the team to fill the remaining four scoring positions.
Atkinson ran a personal best at the NCAA Championships last year and is eager to compete again.
“Brian Atkinson is as fit as anybody I have ever seen in August,” head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “He has been consistently hitting 100 miles a week this summer…doing it under control and feeling great. I know he’s really hungry.”
Moveman also returns this season to lead the team. His performances last year include a faster 10,000-meter run than Atkinson’s, demonstrating the strength of the team’s frontrunners.
Thompson returns to cross country after an outstanding track season last spring. He completed the steeplechase in under nine minutes, which was one of the top five performances of all time by a Duke athlete.
With high hopes for this season, Atkinson said that the team is not only more physically prepared for the season—with a higher preseason average mileage than last year—but also more mentally prepared for a challenging schedule.
“None of us had been to nationals before last year.” Atkinson said. “We were just going in deer-in-the-headlights. It’s great mentally that we will have guys coming back who know what it’s like and will be able to get the younger guys ready from first-hand experience.”
Ogilvie expects the seven scoring positions to include mainly fifth-years, seniors, and juniors, but said a number of runners could step up to fill those spots.
“We probably have more potential fourth- and fifth-men than I can ever remember,” Ogilvie said. “I think our depth is even better this year than we have had in the past. We have had a string of really good recruiting years, and we are starting to see that pay off now.”
The depth of the team gives a favorable forecast for the season ahead. Additionally, the team will have the opportunity to run on the regional and national courses at meets early in the season, so they will be mentally prepared for the tough checkpoints and able to envision their races in the weeks building up to championships, a strategy captain Mike Moveman emphasizes.
After making another run to the NCAA Championships in 2012, Ogilvie hopes that the depth of the team will allow them to do so again and finish the end of the season even stronger, but the team will be tested early.
The Blue Devils face many nationally ranked opponents and will open the season Sept. 14 with the Furman Cross Country Classic in Greenville, S.C.
“Our philosophy has always been we will face anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Ogilvie said. “I think our schedule shows that.”