Sophomore Wesley Frazier set the tone for a new season and put the setbacks of 2013 far behind her at the Virginia Duals Friday.
Kicking off the season in Charlottesville, Va., the Blue Devils dominated the women’s field, nearly sweeping the top five finishes en route to the team victory.
Duke took command of the 4,000-meter race early with Frazier at the front of the pack, ready to show new women’s head coach Christine Engel and herself what she could do after a year off from competitive running.
“Wesley was definitely excited to race,” Engel said. “She has worked hard to get to the level where she is now, and she was really eager to get out there and see where she is from a fitness perspective. She wasn’t really nervous. She was excited and composed.”
Fellow sophomore Hannah Meier, graduate student Jessie Rubin and junior Anima Banks settled into the lead pack with her. As the race progressed, Frazier pulled ahead of the field and her teammates, leading a line of blue uniforms to the finish for a one-through-four sweep. The sophomore claimed her first win of her collegiate career in just her second race with a final time of 14:01.
Hannah Meier was next across the line, finishing in 14:13. Rubin and Banks followed, clocking times of 14:18 and 14:24.
Rounding out the Blue Devils’ five scoring runners, sophomore Haley Meier secured the team victory with a ninth-place finish in a time of 14:45. With runners finishing fifth through eighth and 13th, six-time defending ACC Champions Florida State claimed second and Virginia third.
The ACC coaches’ poll selected Florida State as the top team in the conference, giving the Seminoles all but two first-place votes. Duke was predicted to finish in fourth, behind Virginia in second and Syracuse in third.
But with four runners crossing the line ahead of the veterans on the Florida State roster, including senior Colleen Quigley—the NCAA South Regional Champion and runner-up at the ACC Championships in 2013—the Blue Devils showed they should not be counted out as one of the top teams in the ACC.
Frazier and her teammates know they have the potential to surprise the competition but are wary of high post-season expectations affecting team moral again this year. Engel’s emphasis on the present strikes a good balance for the Duke team recovering from last season.
“We are really focusing on the process and what we can do each day and each week without overthinking what’s down the road,” Engel said. “We are really focusing on the here and now. So far everyone is looking at each practice as an opportunity to get better.”
On the men’s side, the Blue Devils also recorded a successful season opener on the Panorama Farms course.
Junior Henry Farley crossed the finish line first for Duke, turning in a time of 12:35 for the 4,000-meter course and earning third overall.
Also among the top ten finishers, sophomore Daniel Moore took fifth with a time of 12:41. Sophomore Brian Benesch and freshmen Alec Kunzweiler crossed the line in 12th and 13th with times of 13:00 and 13:03, respectively. Rounding out the Blue Devil contingent, freshman Shane Kreidel earned 21st with a time of 13:19.
The Blue Devils outscored Liberty and Norfolk State and were just off the pace of ACC competitors Florida State and Virginia, with the host Cavaliers earning the team victory.