DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke women's cross country team began its preparations for the 2012 season Saturday, holding the squad's first practice of the year.
Under the direction of head coach Kevin Jermyn, the Blue Devils return 11 letterwinners from the 2011 team, which posted a fifth-place finish at last year's NCAA Southeast Regional. Senior Madeline Morgan headlines an experienced group of upperclassmen that also includes graduate student Suejin Ahn and senior Ashley Brasovan. Morgan was an All-ACC performer a year ago and finished 89th competing as an individual at the 2011 NCAA Championships, while both she and Ahn earned All-Southeast Region accolades.
Senior Juliet Bottorff returns to bolster the lineup after missing last fall due to injury. A two-time All-Southeast Region and All-ACC honoree in cross country, Bottorff also captured a national title outdoors in the 10K as a sophomore. Also returning ACC Championship experience is sophomore Colleen Schmidt, who was Duke's fourth finisher at the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional, as well as junior Gabby Levac and sophomores Chloe Maleski and Lindsey Olivere.
The addition of several newcomers to the program will add depth to the roster, as freshmen Olivia Anderson, Anima Banks, Holly Bischof, Madison Granger and Allison Sturges comprise a strong incoming class. Graduate students Carter Norbo, who competed at North Carolina prior to transferring to Duke, and Megan Deakins, who completed four seasons as a member of Duke's field hockey team, will also join the Blue Devils in 2012.
"A few things that are unique about this group are that we have so many seniors and fifth-years, so we think we have one of our most experienced groups that has really strong leadership," Jermyn said at Wednesday's Fall Sports Media Day. "If we are fortunate to have a good progression in the next three months and keep our most talented runners healthy throughout that time, I certainly think we have the potential to be a top-10 team nationally."
Both the men's and women's cross country teams open competition Friday, Aug. 31 at the Virginia Tech Invitational in Blacksburg, Va., the site of the 2012 ACC Championships.