Preparing for the championship stretch, the Blue Devils will preview the NCAA Championship course with the pre-nationals race Saturday.
Top-scoring runners graduate student Mike Moverman, senior Brian Atkinson and junior Shaun Thompson did not compete in the Royals Challenge last weekend but will return to competition in Terre Haute, Ind., leading seven Duke runners for the A-race.
At this 10,000-meter event last year, the Blue Devils placed fifth, earning an at-large selection to the NCAA Championship and their first appearance on the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll of the season in 18th. Duke began this season ranked 30th but has fallen out of the top 30. A strong performance at this meet could propel the Blue Devils back into the rankings.
“I don’t know if a top-five finish is in the cards, but anywhere in the top 10 for this meet is pretty good,” head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “We are out there doing our best. It’s an important meet, a big meet, and we are taking it very seriously.”
The Blue Devils will have the opportunity to race on the same course that will host the NCAA Championship in November. Getting prior race experience provides a great advantage mentally beyond just jogging the course the day before the meet, Ogilvie said.
“It’s important to see any course before you race on it,” he said. “You know the terrain, the up-hills, the down-hills and where to make your move. We get an idea how to race it and how to train for it, so we get in the right amount of hill work, speed work and strength work. We make sure to do that with all the championship courses that we run.”
Moverman, Atkinson and Thompson were Duke’s top finishers at the meet last year, all placing in the top 50. The team’s leaders trained through the weekend and will take on the field at peak mileage.
Junior Brian Schoepfer claimed the final of the seven spots for the A-race with his individual win at the Royals Challenge last weekend. Ogilvie will also bring the second- through fourth-place Blue Devils of that meet—sophomore Blake Udland, freshman Stephen Shine and junior Nate McClafferty—to compete in the nonscoring open race at pre-nationals.
Udland, Shine and McClafferty each nearly claimed the final spot in the A-race, all finishing within three seconds of Schoepfer. Although they cannot contribute to the team score at this meet, they will gain experience racing against strong fields and can score for Duke at the ACC Championship in early November.
“These are our ten best guys who will probably be running at ACCs,” Ogilvie said.