DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke women’s cross country team will have one final tune up as they begin preparations for the ACC Cross Country Championships later this month. The Blue Devils will split their squad this weekend with some members traveling to Greenville, N.C., for the ECU Pirates Invite and others heading to Louisville, Ky., for Pre-Nationals.
First up this weekend will be the ECU Pirates Invite which will take place on Friday evening. The race will be six kilometers with a field of 12 teams. Duke will send three runners to the event, with junior Sheridan Wilbur, sophomore Veronica Brtek, and freshman Leigha Torino getting the start. Wilbur will be the only one of the three with experience in a six kilometer race this season, as she was the seventh Duke finisher at the Paul Short Invite earlier this month. Brtek and Torino both ran in the Royals Challenge the last time out, with Torino finishing in 29th and Brtek in 47th.
“We want them to still be executing some of the things we’ve been working on, just in a smaller field which will be great for the level they’re at,” said head coach Rhonda Riley. “Ultimately, it’s about getting them ready for the ACC Championships.”
The Blue Devils will send seven runners for Saturday’s race in Louisville. It will be a crowded field with 44 teams running in the six kilometer race, including nine teams ranked in the national poll and six more that are currently receiving votes.
“The goal is to see how we stack up against national quality teams, but also be exposed to what it’s like to be at the national meet and be around so many runners,” Riley commented. “Any time you’re in that environment, it’s going to help you later on down the road.”
Duke will be led by freshmen Michaela Reinhart and Amanda Beach as well as sophomore Sophia Parvizi-Wayne. Reinhart and Beach have been the top two finishers for Duke in all three races this season, including a 25th place finish for Reinhart and a 28th place finish for Beach at the Paul Short Invitational. That race was also the first of the season for Parvizi-Wayne who had a strong showing to finish in 59th.
“For those three, we’re looking for the same type of effort as last time out,” Riley said. “We want them to work together and see how low we can place in this quality field.”
Joining that trio will be sophomores Lindsay Billings and Sarah Armstrong as well as juniors Kim Hallowes and Olivia Gwynn. Billings, Hallowes, and Armstrong all ran at the Paul Short Invitational, finishing as the fourth, fifth, and sixth Duke finishers at the race. They helped Duke to have the second lowest spread between its scoring runners among teams in the top ten.
“It’s something that we’ve been practicing, working in a group,” Riley said. “I like that there’s a small gap between our one to five. We’re just looking for basically our four, five, and six to bridge that gap even more and always have eyes on our top three.”
Gwynn, a junior co-captain, will be running a six kilometer race for the first time this season. She is coming off a top-ten finish at the Royals Challenge, her second of the season.
“Her training has taken off since her last race,” Riley said. “We’ve been working on a few things that are going to set her up nicely. If Olivia can follow the race plan, then she is going to set herself up for a very good race.”
The ECU Pirates Invite will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Friday evening while the Pre-Nationals race is scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m., on Saturday morning.