DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke men's and women's cross country squads will split for a full weekend of action, with the women taking on several nationally-ranked programs at the Greater Louisville Classic and the men competing at the nearby Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C.
The Blue Devil women, ranked third in the latest Southeast Region poll released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, will head to Louisville Saturday morning. The women's 5K race will be held on the cross country course at the E.P. 'Tom' Sawyer State Park - the site of the 2012 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
Saturday's field of over 100 women's teams includes seven ranked in the top 25 nationally. Duke will face No. 8 Vanderbilt, No. 12 Arizona, No. 14 Michigan State, No. 17 Penn State and No. 29 Wisconsin - as well as Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Georgia Tech - in the women's gold-seeded race, which is slated for a 10:15 a.m. start.
"Our women are very excited for the opportunity to preview the NCAA Championship course and to compete against a strong national-class field in the Greater Louisville XC Classic," said head coach Kevin Jermyn. "Our main goal is to gain race experience racing in a talented and crowded competitive field. It would also be great to come out of the weekend with some wins over potential NCAA qualifying teams."
Following a fifth-place showing at last weekend's Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational in Earlysville, Va., the Duke men will stay close to home Friday at the Great American Cross Country Festival. The men's 8K race will get underway at 4:25 p.m. on the WakeMed Cross Country Course in Cary. Last year's race saw the Blue Devils take first out of four squads, led by Joseph Elsakr's third-place finish. In addition, Lucas Talavan-Becker came in second competing as an unattached runner at the 2011 edition of the annual meet.
The Duke men - winners of the last three Great American Cross Country Festival titles and currently ranked fifth in the Southeast Region - will send nine runners to compete in Friday's race: Elsakr, juniors Christian Britto, Phil Fairleigh and Spencer Pecha, sophomores Nate McClafferty and Brian Schoepfer and freshmen Eddie Merenda, Daniel Moore and Blake Udland.
"We definitely have some good personnel competing," said head coach Norm Ogilvie. "We're hoping to see some of our younger guys step up. For some of the freshmen, it's going to be the first 8K of their career, so it will be good to get that first 8K behind them. We should be ready to go out there and run very well."
For updates on Duke cross country thoughout the weekend, be sure to follow the Blue Devils on Twitter (@Duke_TF_XC).