Although Duke may not enter its top-scoring runners this weekend, the 400 meters in Wallace Wade at the start of the Bull City Classic will be more of a victory lap for the Blue Devils.
Duke will host N.C. Central Saturday at 3:45 p.m. in the second Bull City Classic, which will be the final race on the track at Wallace Wade Stadium. The track will be removed immediately after the football season when the stadium undergoes major renovations.
Last year, head coach Norm Ogilvie introduced the idea of a combined start of both the race and football game against N.C. Central.
He was excited for his runners to compete in front of thousands of students, rather than a few hundred spectators.
“Running on a track with some bleachers versus running in a huge stadium is mentally different,” women’s cross country senior Jessie Rubin said. “It’s pretty epic, so we will be sad to see that go.”
The race will begin shortly before kickoff of Duke’s football game against the Eagles. Fans awaiting the first game of the season will watch the runners take a lap around the track before they head to the Al Buehler Trail and the Sally Meyerhoff Fitness Loop and will hear the results of the run in the second half of the game. The winners will also be shown on the video scoreboard when the race is completed.
Last year more than 8,000 fans cheered as Duke began the race that it would dominate from start to finish. Senior Phil Farleigh tried to pump up the crowd as the theme to “Chariots of Fire” played before he exited the stadium and lead a pack of Blue Devils across the finish line.
Junior Kelsey Lakowske finished first by nearly a minute last season in her first run as a collegiate athlete. The women took the top five spots in the 4,000 meters, and the men swept the top eight in the 6,000 meters.
Just one N.C. Central runner crossed the finish line before any member of both Blue Devil teams last season.
This final race will serve as a farewell to the rich history of the track at Wallace Wade Stadium.
In the 84 years that the track has been a part of Wallace Wade Stadium, it hosted the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 1990 and 2000, the USA Pan Africa meet in 1995 and the Gold Rush meet in 1996. It holds many memories for Duke’s runners.
“When I’m running on the track, it does feel magical with the history there,” senior Rebecca Craigie said. “I think we were all a little emotional at the end of last [track] season.”
The track around the football field will be removed at the end of fall season, as the stadium’s bowl is closed so that nearly 10,000 seats can be added to the its current capacity.
The new Williams Track and Field Stadium will be built in place of the current lacrosse practice fields behind Koskinen Stadium. In addition to a facilities upgrade, Williams Stadium will be located closer to Duke’s cross country trails.
“It’s a little bittersweet, but we are excited for the new facility and embrace that we have such wonderful facilities here for runners,” women’s head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “[The new facilities] will be a little bit easier of a training venue right across the street from the trail.”
Saturday’s race will mark the end of an era, but the team is eager to take advantage of the program’s upcoming changes.
“It is losing a piece of history, but we are excited to make lots of new history in the new stadium,” Ogilvie said.