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Quartet lifts Duke to 9th place

With four Duke runners in the top 50, the men’s cross country team had a strong weekend that will boost the team in the national standings. Nick Schneider, Michael Hatch, Keith Krieger and Chris Spooner all completed the 8-kilometer course at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn., in under 25:30, contributing to the Blue Devils’ ninth-place finish.

“The top four hit every expectation we had,” head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “We’re extremely happy.”

Crossing the tape first for Duke was Schneider, a senior and native of Minnesota, who ran in what was his last scheduled collegiate meet in the state. Schneider, finishing with a time of 25:01, was quick enough to place 26th in a pool of some of the most talented runners in the nation. Right behind Schneider was Michael Hatch, who finished 29th overall.

“Both these guys are on track to qualify for NCAA’s as individuals,” Ogilvie said.

Rounding out the pack of runners who scored for Duke were sophomore Krieger and freshman Spooner, running in his first ever 8-k college race, as well as Marco Salmen.

“Krieger is running so much better for us than he was last year,” Ogilvie said.

A clear gap between the quality of the fourth and fifth men was apparent in the middle of stiff competition at the Invitational. Although Ogilvie knows his team has been lacking a consistent runner in the fifth spot, Dan Daly turned a slower-than-expected time and did not place for the Blue Devils. Despite this disappointment, junior Cameron Bell recorded one of the best times of his career, reassuring Ogilvie that the gap may close.

Individual accomplishments garnered attention, but team results were also noteworthy. Duke competed against 10 nationally ranked opponents at the Invitational and notched a respectable ninth-place finish. The Blue Devils beat two of the nationally ranked teams and were only six points behind eighth-place finisher Iowa.

If Duke had beat Iowa, Ogilvie said, the team would have been in position to secure an at-large point.

With a week until the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C., and just more than two until Pre-NCAA’s, the success of Schneider, Hatch, Krieger and Spooner this weekend earned them a light week of training. Yet with such a distinct gap between this core group and a fifth runner, the other Blue Devils will be working hard to solidify the lineup.

“Next week is an important one for the next group of guys,” Ogilvie said. “A number of guys could step up and do it for us.”

Duke will watch the national polls intently, hoping for consideration. With Pre-NCAA’s nearing, the Griak Invitational marks an important stepping stone for the Blue Devils, as they seek to assert themselves on a national level.

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