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Duke cross country takes another step forward in Adidas XC Challenge

Head coach Angela Reckart and the Blue Devils head to Boston for the Battle of Beantown Friday.
Head coach Angela Reckart and the Blue Devils head to Boston for the Battle of Beantown Friday.

CARY, N.C.—This cross country season is going to be an exciting one.

The Adidas XC Challenge, hosted by North Carolina State in Cary, N.C., marked the beginning of Duke’s ACC slate this fall. The Blue Devils fielded a smaller lineup in both the men’s (6K) and women’s (5K) races and gave season debuts to many runners absent from the Elon Opener a couple weeks back. The story of the evening Friday, however, was how strong and competitive the conference is looking this year and how Duke will stack up in more competitive meets later in the season.

From the moment the gun was fired, it was clear that the ACC is here to play and will be a serious threat to the traditional titans of collegiate cross country as the season winds to the NCAA Championships in Tallahassee, Fla., in November. Ultimately, North Carolina came out as winners in the men’s race, followed closely by N.C. State and No. 15 Wake Forest, while the Wolfpack swept the women’s race with a perfect score.

Sophomore Jack Kovach led the men and junior Emily Cole led the women for Duke. Kovach placed 14th for his second consecutive top-15 finish of the season while Cole, racing for the first time since 2019, finished 17th. The Blue Devils finished fifth on the men’s side and did not have a team score on the women’s side.

Friday’s race was not one in which Duke was flexing its full athletic muscle or utilizing all of its very talented squad (only seven men and five women competed). It did, however, see the ignition of a slew of runners’ seasons and provide a thorough first look at ACC competition and good preparation for a contentious race at the Battle in Beantown in Boston this upcoming Friday. No. 7 Arkansas and No. 25 Harvard will compete on the men’s side and No. 13 North Carolina, No. 21 Connecticut and No. 25 Providence will run on the women’s side, so the Blue Devils will have tough competition in the meet. 

“It's nice to have a local race for us to go and compete and test ourselves but most of our team will be racing next Friday up in Boston,” head coach Angela Reckart said. “I'm looking forward to having them compete against some nationally-ranked teams and get a better feel for where we are right now.”

None of Duke’s top 10 male and top six female finishers from the Elon Opener competed in Cary, but are all expected to compete at the Battle of Beantown. 

“I'm definitely looking forward to it,” Reckart said. “I'm confident in what we've been doing [and] I'm excited to have really strong competition, for sure.”

If there’s one thing in specific the Blue Devils learned from the Adidas XC Challenge, it’s that they don't just have strong competition in Boston. North Carolina impressed in the men’s race, winning with a total score of 31 (1, 6, 7, 8, 9) and only a 20-second spread between their top five runners, while N.C. State showed why its women’s program is the national frontrunner by sweeping places first through sixth for a score of 15.

Much as it was last year, Duke will have to fight for places both in-conference and nationally this season. But if last year is any indication, this is a chance the Blue Devils will relish. Next week’s race is the true litmus test for both the men’s and women’s teams and will be the first real opportunity for Duke to show what it is really made of in a highly competitive collegiate cross country landscape.

It’s sure to be a thigh-burner of a season and Friday’s race was merely the starting gun.

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