The cross country season came to a close for all but one Blue Devil at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships.
Both the men’s and women’s teams needed to finish in the region’s top two to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, but the women finished fourth and the men eighth Friday in Charlottesville, Va.
Neither team had scored enough points throughout the season against the two teams advancing automatically from each of the nine regions to earn an at-large bid to the championship race in Terre Haute, Ind.
Although he had hoped that his team would make program history by advancing to the NCAA Championships for the fourth time in five seasons, men’s head coach Norm Ogilvie said his athletes should reflect positively on their season.
“We did the best we can,” he said. “Overall, I thought it was a pretty positive season. We certainly beat more people than we lost to.”
No. 17 Eastern Kentucky dominated the race on the men's side, with its top five runners all finishing in the top 20. Unranked Virginia and N.C. State surprised No. 18 North Carolina with second and third-place team finishes, scoring 96 and 101 points, respectively. Virginia Tech, William & Mary and Louisville followed the Tar Heels across the line. Duke finished eighth with 253 points.
Senior Brian Atkinson led the Blue Devils across the finish line, finishing 26th overall with a time of 29:51.6. Junior Shaun Thompson closed his season with a 33rd-place individual finish and time of 30:04.2.
Senior Christian Britto turned in a personal best time 30:16.4 to place 38th. Senior Lucas Tavalan-Becker and sophomore William Rooney rounded out Duke’s five scoring runners in 66th and 95th, respectively.
Graduate student Mike Moverman opened his final collegiate race aggressively, with a 15:13.6 5,000-meter split in 51st place. Falling behind the pace, Moverman finished in 134th place in 32:05.5.
The women’s team entered this season ranked fourth in the nation and first in the Southeast region. After the Adidas Challenge in September, one setback after another plagued the Blue Devils, and Duke soon fell out of the nation's top 30 teams. The team’s fifth-place finish at the ACC Championships brought them back into national rankings in 28th, giving the Blue Devils renewed hope of competing at the national championships.
Freshman Wesley Frazier was a key asset to Duke’s success at the Adidas Challenge with a third-place finish overall. Frazier’s cross country season ended early after she returned to soon to training without fully recovering from the illness that prevented her from competing in the Notre Dame Invitational. The relapse forced her to rest and focus on the upcoming track season.
Returning Blue Devils suffered illness and injury from the start of the season as well. Juniors Carolyn Baskir and Kelsey Lakowske were not able to compete in the first races of the season. Lakowske competed Friday while battling an illness that had plagued her throughout the week.
Competing with such a limited roster at the Wisconsin and Notre Dame Invitational meets cost Duke opportunities to earn the points against teams from other regions that might have secured an at-large bid despite the team’s fourth-place finish this weekend.
No. 11 Virginia and No. 19 William & Mary battled for first place, and the regional title was decided by the fifth runner across the line. Virginia scored 57 points with all five scoring runners crossing the line in the top 20. William & Mary finished with 69 points.
Duke missed a third-place finish by one point, tallying 143 points to N.C. State’s 142. The top five runners for both teams all finished among the first 50 runners across the line.
“We had a fair day,” women’s head coach Kevin Jermyn said. “Certainly wish we could have done better. It seems the missing link was having a healthier middle of the season to get some points so we could move on to nationals as an at-large team because getting an automatic qualifier was a little above our capacity for today’s level of fitness.”
Graduate student Juliet Bottorff turned in a time of 20:08.7 and finished fourth in a tight race for second with Cally Macumber of Kentucky and Barbara Strehler of Virginia. The three athletes finished less than a second apart.
Baskir crossed the finish line next for the Blue Devils in 24th. Her 21:12.1 run earned her All-Southeast Region honors.
Freshmen sisters Hannah and Haley Meier finished 28th and 47th, respectively, rounding out Duke’s five scoring runners with sophomore Anima Banks in 40th.
“I thought we went into the race with a lot of composure and more relaxed," Jermyn said. "I was happy with that. They got themselves in a good place before the race. I do think we made some good mental improvements.”
Despite a disappointing end to the cross country team’s season, Bottorff will advance to the NCAA Championships individually. With her wins at the Adidas Challenge and Notre Dame Invitational and her ACC Championship title, Bottorff earned an at-large bid from the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee.
Bottorff will compete Saturday afternoon in Terre Haute, Ind., in her final cross country race as a Blue Devil.