With a mixture of strong returners and an infusion of new talent, there is much to look forward to for Duke this fall.
The Blue Devils will travel to Blacksburg, Va., Friday to get a tune-up for the regular season, with the men's squad participating in the Hokie Invite at Virginia Tech at 6:45 p.m. The race—which will only cover 6,000 meters, less then the usual 8,000 meters that Duke will see for the rest of the season—will be the first race for the Blue Devil freshmen in a Duke uniform, and after preparing all summer, they should be ready.
“We have two outstanding freshmen, Stephen Garrett and Nikhil Pulimood,” Duke head coach Norm Ogilvie said. “Both have very good high school credentials. Nikhil was a Nike All-American last fall and Garrett can run the equivalent of a 9:05 two-mile.... They have come here in tremendous shape."
The freshman class has been training all summer and arrived on campus with a lot of excitement. Garrett, a native of Wilmington, Del., and Pulimood, from Princeton, N.J., combine to form a potent duo that could be the catalyst the Blue Devils need this season.
“[Garrett and Pulimood] could be as high as second or third man depending on how things go," Ogilvie said. "It is always one thing to be looking good in the early part of the season, but it is how you sustain it over the long haul.”
Training in the summer heat of Durham can be tough, but it also gave the incoming class a chance to prove themselves.
Ogilvie said he thinks that this infusion of new talent, combined with the much-anticipated return of Shaun Thompson, could propel the Blue Devils back to the NCAA Championship after not qualifying for the event last season.
Friday's race will be Thompson’s first competition since the NCAA indoor track championships in March, after taking a voluntary redshirt during the fall cross country season and the outdoor track season in the spring. The Baldwinsville, N.Y., native will be able to use both cross-country and outdoor track in 2015 to train for next summer's Olympic Trials.
“Shaun has been great in practice and has really shown the younger guys how to train,” Ogilvie said. “We have been running our guys hard, but the energy level has been great, much in part to the return of Shaun.”
Thompson will be leading an experienced group of Blue Devils this season that was ranked ninth in the ACC preseason poll released Wednesday. Duke returns six of its eight competitors in the NCAA Championship from last year, including seniors William Hague, Blake Udland, William Rooney and junior Daniel Moore. It is the senior’s last chance to make a mark in Durham, and this process starts in earnest in the hot September sun Friday evening.
“We are up at 2,500 feet, so hopefully it will be cooler [than in Durham]," Ogilvie said. "It’s a Friday night that will contain the heat. Cross country is dealing with weather and different terrain.”
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