Three weeks ago, seniors Michaela Reinhart and Amanda Beach paced Duke women’s cross country to a second-place finish in the Virginia Tech Invitational.
While Reinhart’s place at the front of the pack has become an expectation over the last four seasons, Beach’s finish right behind her showed promise that the Blue Devils’ dynamic duo of three years ago may finally be making a return.
Well, if that opening meet wasn’t enough proof that Beach has returned to form, she cemented her case Friday afternoon at the Virginia/Panorama Arms Invitational in Earlysville, Va.
The Florida native ran neck-and-neck with Reinhart the entire way, eventually edging her teammate by 0.9 seconds for her first win since 2017. Sophomore Samantha Schadler followed in third place overall as Duke’s women took first in the three-team meet, notching 23 points compared to the Cavaliers’ 47 and Hokies’ 58.
For Beach, it’s been a long journey over the past few years. But even when times got tough, she knew if she stayed true to herself and her abilities, a performance like Friday’s would come eventually.
“There was just kind of a rough patch that I went through sophomore year, which led to injury,” Beach said. “I think it was just—I had to be patient and trust that I was putting in the work the whole time. And I just kind of had to wait until it was my time.”
While their performances out on the course may be the only ones that get recorded in the official stat sheet, races like Friday’s are the result of weeks of training behind the scenes. It’s during practice, across the trails of the Triangle Area, where Beach and Reinhart have been truly making their return as a tandem.
“We're actually best friends out of racing as well,” Beach said. “And so I think we can really work together in practice, just because it's so easy to work with your friends. So when you get to a race, and you have the confidence of, ‘Okay, we're supporting each other this whole time and we've done this in practice together and we can rely on each other to push each other throughout the race,’ it makes it a lot easier and more enjoyable.”
Following the trio of Beach, Reinhart and Schadler were juniors Sara Platek and Leigha Torino, freshman Charlotte Tomkinson and sophomore Clara Savchik in seventh, 10th, 11th and 15th place, respectively, in the 33-person race.
The Blue Devil men, meanwhile, finished in second place and were once again paced by senior CJ Ambrosio, who finished in second place individually. Coming into the season with the goal of becoming the true front runner Duke needed, Ambrosio entered this race with the strategy of being aggressive and leading the pack from the start.
“We have a lot of respect for Virginia and Virginia Tech—we know that they have a lot of front runners and really fast All-Americans,” head coach Rhonda Riley said. “Taking a risk was something that CJ wanted to do—go [mix] it up with them—and that's something that he did from the gun. He led, he really pushed the pace and he stuck with it.”
Behind Ambrosio were fellow seniors Josh Romine and Paul Dellinger, sophomore Zach Kinne, freshman Austin Gabay, junior Chris Theodore and sophomore Rory Cavan in fifth, sixth, ninth, 11th, 13th and 19th place, respectively, in the 45-person race.
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Duke’s men notched 33 points to fall seven points behind Virginia’s winning score of 26 but well ahead of Virginia Tech’s 72.
The two races conclude the regular season for the Blue Devils, who now turn their attention to the all-or-nothing ACC Championships Oct. 30. The pressure will certainly be high over the next few weeks heading into the meet, but Riley is confident in where her team is at right now.
“The focus is to not screw up anything with training and to kind of maintain where we're at,” Riley said. “To continue to sharpen them up and keep them confident going into the [ACC] Championships and feeling fresh."