The Blue Devil women, currently ranked 11th in the nation and coming off of a seventh-place finish against an elite field at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational and a team victory at the Queens Royals Cross Country Challenge, will contend with two other nationally-ranked teams Saturday. Florida State enters the race as the top-ranked team in the nation and winner of the past four conference titles, while Boston College is also listed nationally at No. 26. Duke (68-14, 7-0 ACC) sits atop the latest United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Southeast Region poll, followed by No. 3 NC State, No. 4 North Carolina, No. 6 Virginia, No. 7 Clemson and No. 9 Virginia Tech.
Led by two-time All-ACC performer Madeline Morgan in 11th place overall, last year's squad took seventh in the conference. Senior Juliet Bottorff, an all-conference performer as a freshman and sophomore, returns to the Blue Devils' lineup after missing last season due to injury. The team also expects to benefit from the experience of graduate student Suejin Ahn, who took 28th at the 2011 ACC Championships, as well as junior Gabby Levac and a number of younger runners.
"Our women's team gained a lot of confidence from their success in Wisconsin and Charlotte two weeks ago," said women's head coach Kevin Jermyn. "Since our last competition, our women have trained at seasonal best levels. We also opened up our cross country season with a strong performance on the Virginia Tech cross country course, so we are excited to return for another strong race."
The 18th-ranked Duke men enter Saturday's race with a season ledger of 48-8 and a 2-2 mark against ACC opponents after earning a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 13 in Louisville, Ky. Five Blue Devils turned in personal-best performances in that competition, led by senior Mike Moverman at 23:58.0 over 8K. The squad will line up against two other nationally-ranked opponents in Blacksburg, including No. 14 Florida State and No. 21 Virginia Tech. In the most recent Southeast Region poll, the Blue Devils are the highest ranked ACC team at No. 2, followed by No. 3 Virginia Tech, No. 6 Virginia, No. 7 North Carolina, No. 8 NC State and No. 9 Wake Forest.
The 2011 ACC Championships saw Duke tie for fourth with Virginia Tech while NC State claimed the conference title. Andrew Brodeur garnered All-ACC honors in 11th place, while Brian Atkinson took 23rd and Dominick Robinson 51st. Moverman adds experience to the roster after missing last season due to injury, as does graduate student James Kostelnik. Sophomore Shaun Thompson will also look to contribute a strong performance after leading the Blue Devils in two meets this season and earning ACC Performer of the Week accolades in the first week of the season.
"The Duke men have a great opportunity to challenge for an ACC title on Saturday," said men's head coach Norm Ogilvie. "We clearly seem to be peaking at the right time, and our strengths may play into our hands on the Virginia Tech course. If we can make our already tight five-man pack even tighter, or get a couple of top 10 finishes up front, Duke is capable of pulling the upset."
For more information about the 2012 ACC Cross Country Championships, visit the conference's championship website: http://theacc.co/XCChamps. Also, be sure to follow the Blue Devils on Twitter (@Duke_TF_XC).