After a short two weeks of practice, Duke hits the road for the first race of the season Friday.
Opening competition at the Virginia Duals in Charlottesville, Va., women’s head coach Christine Engel will get her first look at how her athletes race, and the Blue Devils will preview the course for the 2014 ACC Championships.
Engel’s first day with the team was Aug. 7. Although she has gained a sense of the team’s chemistry and individual personalities, the Virginia Duals will show her how mentally and physically prepared Duke is for the tough races ahead on the schedule. With only a handful of practices featuring her new training methods in the books, the race in Charlottesville will help Engel establish a baseline for the upcoming months.
“She’s taking this first meet as a way to gauge where everyone is,” sophomore Wesley Frazier said. “It’s tough to just do that through workouts. I think she will use this meet as the first real milestone for where we are as a team.”
Freshmen Paige Rice and Callie Wynn will make their collegiate debut on the Panorama Farms course.
Finishing in the top seven at the Oregon State Class 6A cross country meet all four years of high school, Rice claimed the state title in 2011. The Portland, Ore., native has also earned three national Junior Olympics cross country titles in her career.
Wynn—the 2014 Central Carolina Conference Athlete of the Year—was crowned North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 2A Midwest Regional Cross Country Champion in 2013 and finished third at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Cross Country Championships in 2012.
Both Blue Devil recruits have the potential to work their way onto the regular season roster with a first chance to prove themselves Friday.
Starting his 15th season as the head coach on the men’s side, Norm Ogilvie is less concerned about beginning to determine his regular season roster than he is enthusiastic about the experience this meet will provide for his freshmen.
“Not a lot will be revealed at this first meet,” Ogilvie said. “It’s a chance to give our less-experienced guys a shorter distance cross country race. We are bringing our freshmen along slowly and giving them time to get used to the longer distances. We are still getting in the work.”
The Panorama Farms course will cover 4,000 meters for both the men and the women, a preview of the 6,000- and 8,000-meter courses later in the season. This shorter distance will also serve as an opportunity for athletes focused on middle distance track events to showcase their speed.
The 2014 ACC Championships will be held on the same course Oct. 31. Ogilvie said he hopes that seeing the course will motivate the Blue Devils to earn the chance to race in Charlottesville again and ease nerves in the postseason by familiarizing the runners with terrain conditions early.
“We want to get everybody up to Virginia because a lot of the guys are so young and they haven’t seen that course,” Ogilvie said. “The ACC Championships will be our big focus this year. [The Virginia Duals meet] gives us two meets that we get up to Charlottesville instead of just one.”
In addition to the host Cavaliers, Duke will see conference competitor Florida State Friday, and more local teams Liberty, Norfolk State and James Madison.
The Blue Devil men will return to Virginia for the Panorama Farms Invitational later next month.