Duke cross country will head into its first season since the turn of the millennium without head coach Norm Ogilvie leading the men’s side, but that’s mostly where the losses from last season end. The men return their top six finishers from last year’s ACC Championships, while their female counterparts return four of their top five. Not only that, but improved health and “stud” freshmen could catapult each group to the top-three in the conference after the men and women disappointed last season with seventh and ninth-place finishes, respectively.
New runner to watch
Men’s: Ben Armentrout
The North Carolina native placed second at the 2A NCHSAA State Championships last fall, following that performance up with a first-place finish in the 3200m at the Track & Field Indoor State Championships with a time of 9:28.22. Don’t be surprised if he pushes his way into the Blue Devils’ top-seven this season.
Women’s: Charlotte Tomkinson
While the women’s side is a bit more up in the air with regard to who will have an impact right away, Tomkinson certainly could be the one to break out. The California native holds a 17:27 cross country PR in the 5K and even showcased her mid-distance speed with a first-place finish in the 800m at the 2019 California State Championships with a time of 2:09.41.
Returning runner to watch
Men’s: CJ Ambrosio
This year’s men’s squad is deep, but one thing it does lack is a true front-runner. Look for Ambrosio to try and take that upon himself this season. The senior paced the Blue Devils in four of the six races he competed in last season, including a 26th-place finish at least year’s ACC Championships. He says this year, he’s shooting for top-10. Sophomore Sam Rivera, the first Duke men’s runner to ever take home ACC Freshman of the Year honors, is also someone to keep your eye on.
Women’s: Amanda Beach
Senior Michaela Reinhart, who led the Duke women with a 22nd-place finish at last year’s ACC Championships, would be the easy answer here. But it’s her classmate Beach who could make or break this year’s group. The former high school All-American impressed during her 2017 freshman campaign before disappointing as a sophomore and sitting out much of last season due to injury. If she can return to form, that’s huge news for head coach Rhonda Riley’s squad.
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Most anticipated meet: ACC Championships, Oct. 30
Cross country is a bit different from other sports in that conference and national results pretty much hinge on singular races, with the majority of regular-season meets not playing much of a factor at all outside of preparation. And with the NCAA canceling non-football championships this fall, it’s the ACC Championships that everyone on the team will have their eyes on this season.
Both the men and the women have their sights set on top-three in the ACC, and results like that are certainly not out of the question for either group. Each team has the talent to do it, though it’ll take a little bit of injury luck and for the returning runners named above to reach their own personal expectations to truly get it done.
Things can tumble quickly in cross country. Whether it’s disappointing finishes from key upperclassmen, injuries or just a tough day, either group could easily see themselves freefall to the bottom half of the conference.
Men’s: 5th in the ACC; Women’s: 4th in the ACC
Editor's note: This is a part of The Chronicle's series of previews for Duke's fall sports, the rest of which can be found here.