Tired from training at peak mileage this week, the Blue Devils settled for a 15th place finish at the NCAA Pre-Nationals race, but senior Christian Britto’s breakout race stole the show.
Britto’s personal best in the 8,000-meter race in Terre Haute, Ind., firmly established him as the Blue Devils’ fourth man and helped Duke finish 15th in a field of more than 50 teams.
Turning in a time of 24:43.54, Britto dropped five seconds from his previous best 8K to finish 116th. He finished less than a second behind graduate student Mike Moverman in 115th, closing the gap between the Blue Devils’ top three runners and the rest of their scoring athletes.
“This isn’t a surprise,” head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “Christian has been running well in practice, and we thought this might be a breakthrough for him.”
The chance to catch Moverman provided a lot of motivation for Britto in the final stretch of the race, Ogilvie said.
Leading Duke with an 88th-place finish and time of 24:31.62, senior Brian Atkinson was the third ACC athlete across the line behind Thomas Curtin of Virginia Tech and Josh Gracia of Florida State, who finished 31st and 51st, respectively. Atkinson has been the Blue Devils' top finisher in two of the three races he has run this season.
Junior Shaun Thompson finished a second behind Atkinson and 96th overall. Sophomore William Rooney, senior Lucas Talavan-Becker and junior Brian Schoepfer rounded out Duke’s scoring runners in the A-race, crossing the finish line in 171st, 230th and 243rd, respectively.
The Blue Devils tallied 586 points, placing first among ACC teams in attendance ahead of Florida State with 618 points and Virginia Tech with 622. Although Ogilvie said he was ultimately happy with his team's performance, there were many areas in which Duke can improve going forward.
“We didn't get out particularly well,” Ogilvie said. “We kind of got buried a little bit. It was hard for us to move up throughout the rest of the field. It wasn’t a spectacular day, but we beat the other ACC teams that had worse days.”
In a field of more than 350 runners, Duke runners struggled to move up spots as the race progressed. Ogilvie emphasized the importance of getting off to a strong start to avoid the pack, but he also cautioned his runners against starting too aggressively.
“When you go out fast from the start, you can die an ugly death,” he said. "We saw that happen to Virginia Tech.”
Atkinson passed Leoule Deqfae of Virginia Tech before the finish, and despite trailing the Hokies early in the race, all seven scoring Blue Devils were able to cross the line before Virginia Tech's sixth finisher.
Duke will have a week off from competition and will begin to taper down from peak mileage before the ACC Championships Nov. 1 in Kernersville, N.C.
“Our focus will be on being well rested for the ACC Championships,” he said. “We will also work on getting out in front better and not getting buried back in the pack. When you get buried in a pack of 360 runners, it’s hard to move up.”