Crushing the course record in her first race of the season, graduate student Juliet Bottorff led Duke to a convincing victory against Southeast region opponents N.C. State and North Carolina at the Adidas Challenge in Cary, N.C., Friday.
In a field of almost 200 athletes, all seven of Duke’s scoring runners crossed the finish line at WakeMed Soccer Park in the top 15 positions, turning in an average time of 17:14 for the 5,000-meter race, leaving their competitors far behind.
N.C. State finished second and North Carolina followed distantly in third, with average times of 17:31 and 18:17, respectively.
“It’s a good start and hopefully a base for us to train smarter and race better,” head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “I thought they ran tough, but I’d like to see them run a little bit more confidently and aggressively in the early going by being in a good position sooner in the race.”
Freshmen Wesley Frazier and Hannah Meier began the race conservatively, checking in at the 3,000-meter mark behind Megan Moye and Erika Kemp of N.C. State. But as the race progressed, both Blue Devils held on to an even split while the Wolfpack lost the pace and fell behind. Coming in at 17:15.4 and 17:15.8, Frazier and Meier finished within a stride of each other in third and fourth place, respectively.
“They were probably more tentative at the start than I was envisioning they were going to be,” Jermyn said. “But the take-home from that is that for bigger races, we have to keep working on that in practices and be more mentally ready. It’s just that when you put 200 more people in front of you, it can get crowded and hard to move around them.”
Bottorff’s aggressive race was the exception to Duke’s overall hesitant starts. Leading Joanna Thompson of N.C. State at 3,000 meters by four seconds, Bottorff picked up the pace and left Thompson almost half a minute behind her at the finish. Her time of 16:28.9 marks a new course record for the meet and a personal best by 30 seconds.
The next four Blue Devils across the finish line clinched the victory for Duke. Freshman Haley Meier passed Elizabeth Whelan of North Carolina after trailing her for the first half of the race to finish seventh with a time of 17:31.3. Sophomore Anima Banks, junior Julianna Miller and senior Ashley Berry followed shortly behind her, rounding out the Duke scoring positions in ninth, 10th, and 12th, respectively.
With the fastest runners turning in the lowest number of points, Duke tallied a mere 24 points to N.C. State’s 38 and North Carolina’s 87. As the first-ranked team in the Southeast region, the Blue Devils dominated the third-ranked Wolfpack and fourth-ranked Tar Heels.
Even though Jermyn is satisfied with the race results, he said the girls need to mentally prepare for longer races and stronger competition.
“They aren’t yet taking the risks to have a great race, but ultimately we need seven people to go for a great race,” he said. “We have to give the girls some room to remember how to race again.”