'Sky’s the limit': Maatoug delivers historic performance as Duke cross country flashes potential at ACC Championships

Amina Maatoug's second-place finish at the ACC Championships etched her name further into Duke record books.
Amina Maatoug's second-place finish at the ACC Championships etched her name further into Duke record books.

Midterms are in full swing for most Duke students. A select few, however, endured a different type of exam — a humidity-filled race — at the ACC Championships Friday morning.

Both Duke cross country teams finished seventh in Tallahassee, Fla. With both the men and women facing multiple top-30 squads, the results were perhaps expected, but nonetheless impressive.

Last season’s ACC Championship meet saw, on paper, the exact same finish as this season: seventh for the men, seventh for the women. Since that race, the makeup of both teams has drastically changed. On the men’s side, departures such as Chris Theodore and Zack Kinne have been replaced by the likes of graduate Zubeir Dagane and a rehauled freshman class. The women’s squad saw major turnover from last year into this one, with freshman Thais Rolly and graduate student Julia Fenerty aiding in offsetting losses like Dalia Frias and Ashlyn Ramos. Amid the changes, Duke’s consistency lies in its head coach, Angela Reckart, who showed excitement over how her teams competed Friday.

“I think [both teams] executed exactly how we wanted them to,” Reckart said. “I’m really pleased with their race plan … it was right where we wanted and I’m happy with it.”

As usual, the team’s brightest star was junior phenom Amina Maatoug, who finished in second place in the 6k race with a personal-best time of 19:29.9, earning All-ACC honors. Maatoug beat out N.C. State’s Kelsey Chmiel by 6.6 seconds, marking one of the best performances in program history. Her emphatic finish was followed by an embrace with the Wolfpack’s Katelyn Tuohy, the back-to-back champion of the ACC.

“I think the sky’s the limit [for] what she can do,” Reckart said. “She’s extremely talented [and] she trusts her training … I’m excited to see how the next couple of weeks go [for] her.”

The women’s squad earned two more finishes in the top 50, which included Rolly and Fenerty. Rolly, the team’s foremost first-year, earned a time of 20:50.4 for a 37th-place finish, improving on her personal-best by nearly 45 seconds. Fenerty’s time of 20:56.2, good for a 45th-place finish, also was a personal best. Karly Forker and Charlotte Tomkinson rounded out the Blue Devils’ top five to give the women’s team its final result, just three points behind sixth-placed Boston College.

On paper, seventh place falls short of the team’s high expectations heading into the meet. However, Reckart noted a few factors that affected the final tally; in particular, humidity, a case or two of sickness and the team’s fast start. Amidst these conditions, Reckart expressed her full trust in the team, saying that “all of our ladies are running fantastic. They’re running better than they ever [have].”

Senior Austin Gabay led the men’s team in the 8k with a mark of 23:54.6, good for 24th in the meet. Dagane and junior Beck Wittstadt rounded out the top-50 placements for the Blue Devils with times of 24:01.5 and 24:12.5, respectively. 

“I thought [Gabay] ran a great race,” Reckart said. “This is his first season … being more competitive in cross country, and he’s doing very well.” 

She also complimented the efforts of Dagane and Wittstadt, noting it was a “solid day” for both of them.

Rounding out the men’s scorers were senior Jared Kreis and graduate Michael Keehan, who finished 53rd and 59th, respectively. Kreis finished one second ahead of N.C. State’s John Malach, which proved particularly important in scoring, as the Blue Devils edged out the Wolfpack in the 8k by just two points. 

“We had a couple of things not really go our way, [but] we’re going to be just fine moving forward,” Reckart said. “I think both teams are in a great spot. I still think we can have a great day at regionals … I think we’re in a great position to still be in contention to qualify for nationals.”

The next stop on Duke’s docket is the NCAA Southeast Regional in Spartanburg, S.C., Nov. 10, where both teams will attempt to qualify for their first NCAA Championship appearance since 2020.


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