The Blue Devils are rested and ready to climb back up into the national rankings at the ACC Championships in Kernersville, N.C., Friday.
After a week’s break from competition, both the men and women enter the ACC Championships ranked fourth in the Southeast region and just outside the top 30 teams nationally according to the most recent U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll. With the healthiest and fastest runners competing, Duke could break into the top 30 this weekend, putting both teams in position to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
“Everybody is really hungry,” men’s head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “We feel like we are in a good place heading into ACCs. We are having three easy days going into the ACCs. That should have them ready to perform at a top level.”
On the men’s side, Duke finished fifth behind Virginia Tech, Virginia, Florida State and N.C. State at the 2012 ACC Championships. With the addition of Syracuse and Notre Dame to the conference, this season’s field will be faster than in the past. The Orange and Fighting Irish enter the meet ranked 14th and 23rd in the nation, respectively. North Carolina is also ranked No. 18 in the country.
“The conference is definitely better than it has been in the past, and that’s going to make everything a little bit more challenging,” Ogilvie said. “We feel like if we can be fifth again, it’s actually a step up. Our goal is higher than that, but this year if we finish in the same place that we did last year, we’ve actually done better.”
The women’s team placed second to Florida State at this meet last season. Entering the meet ranked fifth nationally, the Seminoles look to reclaim their title. The Blue Devils are ranked behind Virginia in 10th, Syracuse in 19th, Notre Dame in 22nd and Boston College in 27th after falling from 19th following a disappointing finish at the Wisconsin Invitational.
“I suspect we probably trained too hard going into Wisconsin,” women's head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “Even the kids that were running at the top level there didn’t look as good. I thought we would have done better in the last couple weeks.”
The women will be running without freshman Wesley Frazier again, whose illness has relapsed after returning to training too soon. Despite being unable to run all of his top athletes at any meet after the Adidas Challenge, Jermyn remains optimistic about the team’s readiness to compete this weekend.
“We do feel like we have the best team out there and that we could be really good even if we don’t hit as perfectly close to our potential as we can,” he said. “We have had bumps along the way, but we are going to go out there and focus on being a good team, nationally competitive.”
Ogilvie is also confident that he has entered Duke’s fastest 10 runners. Seniors Brian Atkinson, Christian Britto and Lucas Talavan-Becker and graduate student Mike Moverman could lead the Blue Devils to a successful finish, he said.
“It’s going to come down to our seniors and how badly they want it,” Ogilvie said. “These are the guys that are going to make the difference for us. They know that we really need to come away with a couple of those wins.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams’ placement this weekend could impact Duke’s opportunity for selection to the NCAA Championships in November. By outscoring higher ranked teams, the Blue Devils, currently sitting just outside the top 30, could earn votes for at-large bids to compete in Terre Haute, Ind.