After running all over N.C. Central in the Bull City Classic, Duke is finally ready for its first true test of the season.
The Blue Devils will travel to Cary, N.C., Friday to compete at the Wolfpack Invitational, giving them an opportunity to face regionally-ranked teams in the midst of early-season training.
Entering this race first in the Southeast region and fourth in the national poll by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, Duke will be the highest-ranked team in attendance. The Blue Devils will meet 11 other schools at the WakeMed Soccer Park, including ACC competitors North Carolina and N.C. State.
“This is an opportunity to get really strong competition without traveling,” women’s head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “It seemed like a good fit for this year and this group to race against our local competitors. We mainly just keep on training during this time, so when we fly and travel, that takes a lot more out of them in terms of their energy.”
The Tar Heels enter the meet ranked fourth in the Southeast region, led by junior Lianne Farber, who finished in 40th at the NCAA Championship last year.
N.C. State is ranked third in the Southeast region and 21st in the nation, making the Wolfpack the only other nationally-ranked team in the race's field.
Graduate student Juliet Bottorff will lead the Blue Devils in her first race of the season, after finishing 27th last season at the NCAA Championship, earning All-America honors.
Jermyn is able to enter 16 athletes, so promising freshmen Wesley Frazier, Hannah Meier and Haley Meier will have their first opportunity to race for Duke.
Frazier’s high school credentials suggest that she will be a significant factor in the Blue Devils line-up. As a 17-time All-America honoree and eight-time national champion, Frazier boasts the title of first high school girl to win the “the long-distance triple”—the 1,600-, 3,200- and 5,000-meter races at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in June.
Running against strong competition from the Southeast region, Jermyn said he hopes this weekend's race will give his team an experience that it will take into later meets.
"The last thing we want to do is just race against each other,” he said. “We did want to seek out strong competition so that this would be more realistic to how our races are going to be down the road, kind of like a good distraction. We want to be a little bit nervous or a little bit intimidated early in the season so we can get used to it.”
With the competition providing an interlude in early-season training, Jermyn stressed the importance of learning to race against the course as well as the other runners.
“We have run this same course many times,” Jermyn said. “Ultimately what we try to get in their mentalities is that we are racing the course. By the end of the year when we are racing at the national championship, there will be 250 people from 31 teams. You can’t pick out people. You are just doing the best you can against that course.”