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Duke cross country 2022 season preview

Duke opens its season Friday.
Duke opens its season Friday.

Overview

It was a tough year for the Blue Devils in 2021. After a 16th-place showing at the 2020 NCAA Championships for the men’s team and a fourth-place finish for the recently-departed Michaela Reinhart at the ACC Championships the same year, Duke looked to be on the up. The addition of Nick Dahl last season promised to fortify the Blue Devils’ top seven on the men’s side and the growth of then-sophomore Charlotte Tomkinson gave the women’s team an extra asset in its leading pack. Head coach Angela Reckart was entering her first season at the helm after leaving her post at Penn State as well. Long story short, there was some turnover for Duke, but the energy and expectations were high.

The team’s lofty ambitions fell short by season’s end, however, with both the men’s and women’s groups missing the NCAA Championships via a seventh- and ninth-place conference finish, respectively. Reinhart and Tomkinson snagged positions 14 and 16 while graduate student Josh Romine got 21st to earn the trio All-ACC honors, but the team will be disappointed to have ended its season below its potential and outside the national field in Tallahassee, Fla.

“When I accepted the job last year and got to work here at Duke, my goals for the program were to have both teams on the starting line at the [NCAA Championships],” Reckart told The Chronicle. “And at the ACC level, the ACC is extremely competitive. I think both men and women had five teams at the national championships last year. So, I think if you're a top-five to a top-three team, you're doing very well.”

Coming into 2022, Romine and Reinhart—the latter of whom has joined as an assistant coach, Reckart said—have departed and Reckart enters her second full season as head coach. Both the men’s and women’s teams have brought in a slew of talented freshmen and have eyes toward the future. -Andrew Long

New runners to watch

Men: Jeremy Kain, Nick Falk

In Jeremy Kain and Nick Falk, the Blue Devils already have a promising freshman duo. Kain hails from Scotts Valley, Calif., where he picked up a state championship on the track in the 1600m during his senior year of high school in 2021. Falk, a New Trier product from Glencoe, Ill., has been similarly impressive to this point, setting his high school's record in the three-mile with a time of 14:14. Time will tell what these two can accomplish, but they should excite in year one. -Jonathan Levitan

Women: Ashlyn Ramos

After four highly successful years at Bucknell that featured an individual Patriot League cross country title in her junior season, Ashlyn Ramos joins the Blue Devils and should immediately slide in as a top runner. In her final cross country season in the Patriot League, the two-time NCAA Championships qualifier ran the 6000m conference championship course in 21:09.1. Duke will have talented freshmen, as always, but the numbers indicate that Ramos will have an impact in her lone season in Durham. -Levitan

Returning runners to watch

Men: Sam Rivera, Zach Kinne

In addition to men’s captains Dahl and Chris Theodore, Reckart mentioned seniors Sam Rivera and Zach Kinne as runners who broke the 14-minute barrier in the 5000m. The duo finished in tandem at the NCAA Southeast Regional in 2021 as Duke’s third and fourth runners and could give the Blue Devils real depth to their lineup following strong track seasons in the spring. -Levitan

Women: Emily Cole, Charlotte Tomkinson

She may still be around the program, but Reinhart’s absence from the start line leaves a void for these Blue Devils to fill. Clara Savchik was also a key contributor a year ago who has now departed, leaving juniors Tomkinson and Emily Cole as runners to watch—both had breakout seasons in cross country and track and field in 2021-22, Reckart told The Chronicle, and will go a long way toward deciding what Duke’s ceiling is. -Levitan

Most anticipated meet: Nuttycombe Invitational, Oct. 14

Any runner can tell you that the best meets are the ones with the most schools from the farthest reaches. Enter the Nuttycombe Invitational. The event, hosted by Wisconsin, is set to feature the likes of the top 2021 finishers at NCAA Championships in N.C. State, BYU and New Mexico on the women’s side and Northern Arizona, Iowa State and Stanford in the men’s field alongside at least a dozen more stellar teams in both races. It is an insanely competitive field. Duke isn’t expected to win this race, but it will no doubt be its hardest set of opponents yet and the biggest litmus test of its standing among the country’s best programs. -Long

Best-case scenario

Last fall was billed as a season of growth for the Blue Devils, one in which they built on fantastic showings in the ACC and NCAA Championships to kickstart a climb up the national ladder. It didn’t do that last year, but most of the group is coming back and Reckart is a qualified coach. Duke has the misfortune of sharing a conference with the likes of Notre Dame, N.C. State and North Carolina, meaning automatic qualification in the conference is a tall task. If the stars align and each runner performs to their ceiling, however, an at-large NCAA berth and top-20 showing at the national meet is not out of the question, with an outside chance of top-three for the men and top-two for the women in the ACC. -Long

Worst-case scenario

Both the men’s and women’s teams lost veteran runners, and while a younger core should step in to fill their shoes, it can often be difficult to tell whether that top-tier production can be replicated elsewhere. If that ends up being the case, the Blue Devils will end up sinking further down the leaderboard at the ACC Championships, pushing their pursuit of an NCAA Championships berth a year down the road. -Levitan

Predictions

Long: 

Men’s: 5th in the ACC, 25th in NCAA

Women’s: 3rd in the ACC, 18th in NCAA

Levitan: 

Men’s: 6th in the ACC

Women’s: 5th in the ACC


Jonathan Levitan | Sports Editor

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


Andrew Long | Blue Zone editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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