DURHAM, N.C. -- The Duke men’s cross country team travels to the Southeast Regional Championship in Charlottesville, Va., Friday, looking to accomplish a feat that has never been achieved in the history of the Duke cross country program--qualify for the NCAA National Championship meet four times in five years. Only twice in school history has a Blue Devil squad qualified for the national championship meet three times in four years, with the first occurring between 1998 and 2001 and the second in 2009 and running to the present. For this to happen, the Blue Devils must run what head men’s cross country coach Norm Ogilvie refers to as “the races of their lives.”
“We really need to finish in the top two,” Ogilvie said. “The whole Southeast Region does not have a lot of wins this year over other teams that we expect to get auto-bids, so we’re going to have to run the races of our lives to make this work. We feel we need to finish in the top two for us to get into the NCAAs. We’re up to the challenge.”
The Blue Devils return five harriers from last year’s fifth-place regional team. Thirty-six teams are slated to enter Friday’s 10,000-meter Southeast Regional competition, including No. 17 Eastern Kentucky and No. 18 North Carolina. The course, 2,000m longer than previous competitions this season, will be run at Panorama Farms, a 850-acre farm approximately six miles from Virginia’s campus. With both the regional and national championship meets run at the 10,000m distance, the Blue Devils feel duly prepared for the longer races.
“We train for 10k[ilometers] all year,” Ogilvie said. “That’s our focus. That’s the philosophy of our program we’ve had in place. That’s what’s helped us reach nationals in three of the last four years, by us performing relatively better at 10k[ilometers] than at 8k[ilometers]. It’s just a matter of being a higher mileage program, more focused on longer, strength intervals, and having the right personnel to pull it off.”
The Blue Devils’ lineup includes a number of experienced competitors, including graduate student Mike Moverman and seniors, Brian Atkinson, Christian Britto, Clint McKelvey and Lucas Talavan-Becker. These five Duke competitors enter Friday’s meet with an added incentive.
“The experience is helpful, but I think even more helpful is that five of the seven guys are seniors,” Ogilvie said. “That puts the motivation sky high. These guys have been running cross county at least the last eight years of their lives. If they don’t run career type races on Friday, it’s going to be their last cross country race of their careers. The fact that it’s such a veteran squad is highly motivational. There’s five guys that want to extend their career another week, to go to the NCAA meet.”
The trio of Moverman, Atkinson and junior Shaun Thompson toe the line Friday consistently finishing as Duke's one-through-three this season. Moverman returns to the regional championship after placing 27th overall in a time of 30:50.63 in 2012. In his most recent competition, Moverman placed 22nd overall at the ACC Championship, missing All-ACC honors by one place. Thompson and Atkinson placed fourth and 20th, respectively at the conference meet, earning All-ACC honors and guiding the team to a sixth-place conference finish. Thompson's fourth-place finish was the highest of a Blue Devil at the conference meet since 2000. Ogilvie looks toward Duke’s top-three to remain consistent up front.
Similar to Duke’s top-three runners, the Blue Devils’ Britto provides a reliable fourth runner for Duke. In his last two appearances, Britto crossed the line within sixteen seconds of Duke’s third-place finisher.
The Blue Devils rely on Talavan-Becker, sophomore Brian Schoepfer or McKelvey to finish as Duke’s final scorer on Friday. Talavan-Becker returns to the regional meet after placing 63rd a year ago. Schoepfer, appearing in his first regional competition, most recently placed 78th at the ACC Championship, while McKelvey, also competing in his first regional meet, finished 59th for Duke at the conference competition.
“We’re asking a lot of the guys, but we’re fired up and we’re ready,” Ogilvie said.
Results of the competition will be available here.
The men’s race is set for 12 p.m. Friday.