DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke men’s cross country team is set to compete in the 2013 ACC Championship meet Friday, Nov. 1, in Kernersville, N.C. The cross country course, located in Beeson Park, marks the final competition this season where the men race at the 8,000-meter distance. In last year’s conference meet, the top-five Blue Devil runners finished within 47 seconds of one another, and as a team, Duke averaged 24:30.34 for a fifth-place finish. Virginia Tech captured the 2012 conference title, scoring 55 points. In addition to Duke, eight opponents appearing in the top-five of their respective regions, as well as three nationally ranked teams, toe the line Friday morning.
The Blue Devils will look to get out early in Friday’s competition, a focus that Duke head men’s cross country coach Norm Ogilvie has worked on with his team.
“We did move up very well [at Pre-Nationals],” Ogilvie said. “The splits at 3K indicated we were in 35th as a team, and we finished 15th. We went by 20 teams in the last 5K of the race; however we were just buried too far. That’s not good enough. We need to be out near the top at the ACC meet. It’s a different make up when you have 15 teams versus 52, you’re not as likely to get buried. It’s definitely a point of interest. We’ve been working a little bit more on speed and leg turnover than we normally do.”
Duke returns to the conference championship with a core of experienced runners, including four of the team’s scorers from the 2012 ACC Championship meet. Graduate student Mike Moverman, senior Brian Atkinson, junior Shaun Thompson and senior Christian Britto all placed within the top-35 at last year’s competition.
“Four of our top five will most likely be seniors, so we are relying on our senior class to realize this is their last ACC meet and whether they return to the NCAAs or not will rely largely on the kind of job they do on Friday,” Ogilvie said. “We feel like the experience certainly helps, but the sense of urgency is even more helpful for these seniors to realize it’s time to step up and do what they’ve trained to do and what they’re ready to do.”
Moverman led the Blue Devils with a ninth-place overall finish at the 2012 ACC Championships, covering the 8,000m course in Blacksburg, Va., in a time of 24:02.2. Moverman earned his first All-ACC honor following his ninth-place finish. Moverman opened his 2013 campaign at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational Sept. 28, where the Easton, Mass., native placed fifth overall in a time of 23:56.8.
Atkinson, one of Duke’s most consistent runners throughout the fall, also returns to the conference meet after finishing 17th a year ago. The Melbourne Beach, Fla., native ran a time of 24:18.2 at last year’s conference meet, and has finished in the top three on the Blue Devil squad in each of the three competitions he has entered in 2013. Atkinson saw his best performance of the season come at the Furman XC Challenge, where he led Duke to a third-place team finish, placing sixth overall in a time of 24:08.58.
Thompson, a junior from Baldwinsville, N.Y., has remained a solid number two runner for the Blue Devils this fall. Thompson debuted at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational in a personal-best time of 23:57.1 and followed the performance with a 24:32.86 at the Pre-National Invitational. At last year’s conference championship, Thompson placed 33rd overall, in a time of 24:49.6.
Junior Brian Schoepfer and senior Lucas Talavan-Becker also return to the conference meet after competing a year ago. Schoepfer captured the individual title at the Royal Cross Country Challenge Oct. 11, which earned him a spot to compete at Pre-Nationals Oct. 19. Schoepfer placed 83rd as a sophomore in 2012 at the ACC Championship meet. Talavan-Becker’s highest finish of the season came at the Furman XC Challenge, where the South San Francisco, Calif., native placed 18th overall and fifth on the Blue Devil squad. At last year’s conference meet, Talavan-Becker placed 41st in a time of 25:00.7.
Toeing the line at a collegiate conference meet for the first time is freshman Stephen Shine. Shine has contributed for the Blue Devils in his first season with Duke, scoring in three of the four meets he entered in 2013. Shine earned his first collegiate win at the Bull City Classic Aug. 31 and most recently placed 16th overall in the Pre-Nationals open competition Oct. 19.
Sophomore Blake Udland, a stalwart member of the Blue Devil squad, enters Friday’s meet after appearing in all five of Duke’s competitions this fall. Udland earned his highest finish of the season Oct. 11 at the Royal Cross Country Challenge, where the Short Hills, N.J., native placed second overall.
Senior Clint McKelvey and sophomore William Rooney round out the Duke runners competing Friday morning. Following two missed seasons due to injury, McKelvey once again donned the Duke singlet and raced to an eighth-place finish at the Royal Cross Country Challenge. Rooney, competing in his first conference championship meet, saw his highest finish of the season at the Furman XC Challenge, where he placed 15th overall and third for Duke, in a time of 24:30.5.
“Friday morning it’s show time,” Ogilvie said. “I think we’re ready. I think the team is in a really good place, mentally. I think they’re hungry, they want it. It’s just a matter of getting out and racing now.”
The men’s race is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday morning.
For more information on the meet, visit http://theacc.co/XCchamp or follow @ACCTrackField on Twitter and use the hashtag #ACCXC.