Across the last two weekends, Duke has been busy getting its first taste of conference competition.
Both Blue Devil teams competed at the Virginia Invitational in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday amid rainy conditions. The women’s squad finished 12th out of 23 teams in the 5k, whereas the men’s team garnered an 18th-place finish in the 8k. Both squads faced Virginia and North Carolina in a preview of ACC matchups to come.
The 5k race saw the season debut for junior Amina Maatoug, who was coming off of an impressive track season and performance at the European U23 Championships. The Leiden, Netherlands, native finished with a personal-best time of 16:27.5, good for seventh Saturday.
“Nothing ever really surprises me anymore with Amina,” said head coach Angela Reckart. “I assumed she would finish doing exactly what she did, to be honest.”
Reckart also noted Maatoug’s 30-second improvement from her previous best time, saying that the she was in “a great starting point for the season.”
The women’s team ran a strong race overall, with graduate student Emily Cole and senior Charlotte Tomkinson finishing with times of 17:03.0 and 17:17.2, respectively. Graduate students Karly Forker and Julia Fenerty rounded out the Blue Devils’ top five, and Forker improved on last season’s time in Charlottesville by 23.5 seconds.
“I thought [the women’s team] executed great,” Reckart said. “I think [placing 12th] in this field was a very solid day, a step in the right direction for the women’s program.” However, Reckart also said that the team “probably went out a little aggressive,” which potentially slowed some of the runners down in the last leg of the race.
“We’ll learn from that and maybe [start the race] a little bit more conservatively [next time],” she said.
The men’s squad had a tougher go with a bottom-six finish in the 8k. Senior Austin Gabay headed the pack with a time of 23:56.8 for a 42nd-place finish, while the graduate duo of Rory Cavan and Michael Keehan earned times of 24:23.0 and 24:23.6, respectively. The men’s team finished well short of the Virginia and North Carolina squads, who finished in third and seventh place, respectively.
“We got split up really early on in the race. After the 1k, they weren’t packed up, which in cross country is really key … in a highly competitive race like this, moving as a pack is how we race,” Reckart said. “We’re better than how we performed today on the men’s side … I think we could’ve finished four to five places higher than we finished today.”
Together with Cavan and Keehan, senior Jared Kreis and graduate student Sam Rivera rounded out the top five, and the quartet finished within 10.1 seconds of each other. Despite the four runners regrouping towards the end of the race, Reckart noted that they “could have raced with [Gabay] today,” noting that the men’s team “[has] to execute better next race.”
At the Adidas XC Challenge Sept. 15, the men’s squad fielded a team that finished third, spearheaded by the efforts of junior Conor Bohrer. The Cincinnati native finished with a personal-best time of 18:36.0 while running in his first race since the 2021 season. Reckart noted that the team would be “a little cautious with him” coming off injury while remarking that the men’s top-seven wasn’t “set in stone.”
Overall, the men’s team garnered three top-20 finishers in Cary, N.C., with sophomores Nick Falk and Jeremy Kain coming in 16th and 18th, respectively. Kain set a personal-best with a time of 18:38.0. Duke finished two places behind N.C. State on the Wolfpack’s home turf, who swept the top six spots.
Duke next travels to two meets — the Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wis., Oct. 13 and the ECU Pirate Cross Country Invitational in Greenville, N.C., Oct. 14. Both teams look to improve on of their showing at the Virginia Invitational.
“I challenged [the men’s team]. I said, ‘Listen … you can be frustrated today and be angry. Tomorrow’s a new day, and anything can happen in the next three weeks,’” Reckart said. “We can go out and … walk away from our next race and [be] really pleased with how things go. I challenge them to take that opportunity.”
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