The Blue Devils return two top-30 finishers from nationals last year, and incoming freshman Wesley Frazier may may prove to be a key asset as the team seeks another top-10 finish this season.
Duke wrapped up its season last year with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championships and begins this season ranked second in the Track and Field News preseason poll. Fifth-year senior Juliet Bottorff closed last season with a 27th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, earning All-America honors and will be a key runner heading into the season
“When she is on our team and running, we are a good team,” head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “When she hasn’t been, we haven’t been nearly as good. The correlation there is exceptionally high.”
The team finished second to Florida State in the ACC Championships last year, and Jermyn said that one of the team’s biggest goals is to give the Seminoles a close run for the championship title.
The Blue Devils are in an excellent position to close the gap. In addition to Bortoff, the team returns its two other top-three runners from last year with sophomore Kelsey Lakowske and junior Carolyn Baskir.
Last year, Lakowske earned All-America honors with a 20th-place finish at the NCAA Championships in her first season at Duke, and Baskir also contributed to the Blue Devils’ championship performance with a personal best 6000-meter time.
The team has embraced its talented incoming freshmen, especially the highly-touted Frazier. She is a 17-time All-America honoree, an eight-time national champion, and the first high school girl to win the 1,600, 3,200 and 5,000 meters—what is referred to as “the long-distance triple”—at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in June.
Jermyn believes that Frazier could have early success as a Blue Devil.
“She is already doing things in her first week here that I haven’t seen happen too many times at Duke,” he said. “That, as a coach, is a really exciting position to be in when you see uncharted territory being reached in training.”
Duke’s preseason training trip to the mountains in Blowing Rock united the team’s old and new members before the stress of the school year. The low-key time gave incoming freshmen the opportunity to get comfortable with their teammates and coaching staff. The experience in the mountains will provide a base for team unity that the girls can build on throughout the season.
Senior Rebecca Craigie said that team synergy is key to the team’s success in what often is seen as an individual sport.
“Every race matters,” Craigie said. “You really have to push yourself for your teammates. It’s a strong influence that can really motivate you at the end of hard race.”
The Blue Devils will open the season with the Bull City Classic this Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.