As 2020 comes to a close, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest stories of the year in Duke athletics. Each day, we will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year for the Blue Devils. Check out the rest of the top 10 here.
Coming in at No. 10: Duke cross country begins the post-Norm Ogilvie era in style, capping off the season with the program's best performances in the ACC Championships since 2012.
The 2020 season has been different for every Duke Athletics team, but even more so for the Blue Devils’ cross country program.
In April, Norm Ogilvie—who had been involved with the program in some capacity since 1981 and as the men’s head coach since 2000—retired, leaving women’s head coach Rhona Riley to coach both the men’s and women’s squads.
It’s safe to say Riley impressed in the new role.
Both the men and women placed second in the first meet of the season Sept. 25, but it was the teams’ performances Oct. 16 in their final regular-season races that truly displayed their potential heading into the ACC Championships.
The Blue Devil women filled the top three en route to a dominating win, with senior Amanda Beach placing first overall followed by classmate Michaela Reinhart in second and sophomore Samantha Schadler in third.
It had been a long journey back to the top for Beach, a former high-school All-American who struggled through disappointment and injuries during her sophomore and junior campaigns. The victory was her first win since her first collegiate race back in 2017.
On the other side, the men placed second, led by a strong performance from CJ Ambrosio. The senior captain finished second overall, a strong indication that he was becoming the true front runner the Blue Devil men needed, something Ambrosio said was a goal of his entering the season.
All of that, however, was just a tune-up for the race that truly mattered: the ACC Championships Oct. 30. And it was there that the Blue Devils impressed the most.
Both the men and women finished with their best performances in the meet since 2012, with the former placing fifth and the latter placing fourth. Reinhart, Schadler and Ambrosio earned All-ACC honors, finishing in fourth, 10th and 16th overall in their respective races.
Both Reinhart and Ambrosio had easily surpassed their personal best finishes in the ACC Championships, but it was the team’s youth that showed the most promise for the future of the program.
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In addition to Schadler, six other underclassmen made up the men’s and women’s top seven, including three freshmen. That, as well as the potential return of some of the team’s seniors thanks to the NCAA’s extra eligibility ruling, indicates that Duke is far from done leaving its imprint on the rest of the ACC.
And when NCAA Regional and Championship races (hopefully) return in 2021, that success may very well extend to the national level as well.
READ MORE on Duke cross country’s historic season: