Duke’s performance at the Wisconsin Invitational Saturday reflected the team’s struggle to keep top-scoring runners healthy.
Racing in their most competitive field this season and with athletes struggling with illness, the Blue Devils managed a 25th-place finish Saturday at the Wisconsin Invitational in Madison, Wis. The race's 37-team field featured more than half of the top 30 teams in the nation.
Freshman Wesley Frazier did not compete this weekend because she had not recovered from the illness that prevented her and fellow-freshman Hannah Meier from racing in the Notre Dame Invitational Oct. 4. Without its second-scoring runner, Duke lost an opportunity for another top-100 individual finish and higher team score.
The freshmen are especially prone to getting sick with the new stresses of adjusting to collegiate life and all the illnesses that run unchecked through East Campus, head coach Kevin Jermyn had said after the Notre Dame race.
“We have rampant illness running through our team,” he said. “If there is illness going around, we tend to catch them.”
Hannah Meier showed that she was still recovering with a time of 21:42 in her first collegiate 6,000-meter race, finishing in 175th. Her twin sister Haley also competed in her first 6K and finished 125th with a time of 21:16, crossing the finish line ahead of her sister for the first time this season.
The Blue Devils leaned heavily on their top-scorer, graduate student Juliet Bottorff. Bottorff ran just eight seconds slower than her personal record of 19:55, crossing the line at 20:03. Finishing 11th overall, she was the fastest ACC athlete by three seconds, ahead of Kelly Curran of Notre Dame.
Competing in the first 6K of her collegiate career, sophomore Anima Banks stepped up as Duke’s second scorer. Banks passed Madeleine Davidson of Boston College after trailing her by 12 seconds at the halfway mark to take 113th place in a time of 21:11.
Sophomore Madison Granger, junior Julianna Miller and senior Ashley Berry rounded out the Blue Devils’ top seven runners for the A-race, finishing 232nd, 276th and 287th, respectively.
Duke’s total score of 619 points gave the Blue Devils’ a 25th place finish overall, which ranked fifth among the ACC teams in attendance. Syracuse finished in 11th, leading ACC schools. Notre Dame, Boston College and NC State finished 13th, 16th and 20th, respectively.
The Blue Devils will have two weeks to improve their health and training before their first championship meet of the season. Duke will travel to Kernersville, N.C., Nov. 1 to compete in the ACC Championships, hoping the team will finally be back to full strength for the event.
“Right now we are not where we want to be in November, but we do have enough time to get not only physically better but also mentally better,” Jermyn said. “There have definitely been a lot of bumps along the way that I was prepared for, but I don’t know if some of the younger kids were. Sometimes the path to something really good down the road with a motivated group can look a little different than they might script it.”