CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The 17th-ranked Duke women’s cross country team returns to Charlotte, N.C., Friday, to compete in the Royal Cross Country Challenge. The Blue Devils clinched the team championship at last year’s competition, placing all five of the squad’s scoring runners in the top 20.
Duke women’s cross country head coach Kevin Jermyn views the Royal Cross Country Challenge as an opportunity to gauge the fitness levels of several younger runners, as well as those who have yet to compete this season.
“We’re running a few kids that haven’t raced yet, so it’s the first glimpse of seeing where they are on race day," Jermyn said. "I’m excited to see where people are on race day. You see different things sometimes in a race as you do in practice.”
Two members of the Blue Devils, seniors Rebecca Craigie and Colette Whitney, will make their 2013 season debuts Friday. Craigie did not compete for Duke during the 2012 cross country season, while Whitney participated in one meet last season, placing second at the Duke-NC Central dual meet in a 4,000-meter time of 14:52.0.
Sophomore Allison Sturges will compete in her third meet of the 2013 campaign this Friday. Sturges’ highest finish of the season came at the Adidas XC Challenge Sept. 20, when the Los Altos, Calif., native finished 23rd, in a 5,000m time of 18:27.3.
Freshmen Grace Chang and Gina Daniel, both making their third appearance for the Blue Devils, will compete in the Royal Cross Country Challenge Friday as well. Chang finished second for Duke at the Bull City Classic Aug. 31, covering the 4,000m distance in a time of 15:16. Daniel competed to a sixth-place finish at the same event, finishing in a time of 16:47.0.
Duke’s third and fourth-place finishers at the Bull City Classic, junior Colleen Schmidt and senior Dana Morin, will round out the seven competitors participating in Friday’s meet. Schmidt earned an individual victory at last season’s Three Stripe Red Shirt Invitational and a 60th-place finish at the 2012 ACC Championship meet. Morin recorded a personal best 5,000m time of 18:06.0 at last year’s running of the Royal Cross Country Challenge and placed 11th in the process.
“Teamwise, I’m looking at this weekend more just seeing where each person is and seeing what we need to do to help them," Jermyn said. "The goal will be more about getting a race in and challenging [the individual runners]. Hopefully they all get enough competition that it’s not all our girls racing one another. That would be one of my biggest goals. I would like to see them get as much competition as possible, so that way, they get a realistic simulation of what a high-level meet would be.”
The women’s gold 5,000m race is slated for a 4:30 p.m. start.