KERNERSVILLE, N.C. – In her final conference championship appearance, graduate student Juliet Bottorff captured the ACC individual title Friday, Nov. 1, in Kernersville, N.C. Bottorff is Duke's third ACC individual cross country champion and the first Blue Devil to accomplish the feat since Shannon Rowbury in 2005.
Bottorff led the Blue Devils to a fifth-place team finish, scoring 130 points. Florida State earned the team title, finishing with 52 points, followed by Virginia (65), Syracuse (108) and Notre Dame (124). Duke averaged 21:12.42 over the 6,000-meter course in Beeson Park.
“It was by far the best race we’ve had in the last couple,” Duke women’s head cross country coach Kevin Jermyn said. “We ran our best race of the year at WakeMed. This was certainly a step in the right direction. We beat a nationally ranked team, [No. 27 Boston College] for the first time all season. That was good. Looking at the results, it still felt like third was in our reach and that would have been a lot of wins for nationals, but this shows that we’re close to being a good team, a top 20, top 15 caliber team, nationally.”
As the Blue Devils took to the starting line, the skies opened and the rain began to fall, making for a wet conference championship contest. Bottorff quickly raced to the front of the pack and maintained her position within the top three through 4,000 meters. With 1,000 meters remaining, Bottorff made a decisive move that led to a significant gap between her and the other competitors.
“I definitely had [the final move] in mind,” Bottorff said. “That’s just how I race best. If I can do that, then I like to stay relaxed and get my bearings for the first half and see where everyone else is and see how it’s playing out and not necessarily be the one to take control of the race. I was thinking the last one to two [kilometers] would be a good place to just drop the hammer and see what I had left.”
After going out in 13:30.7 through 4,000 meters, Bottorff closed the final 2,000 meters to finish in a time of 20:05.9.
“She wanted it really bad,” said Jermyn. “I didn’t want her to want it too bad, but she’s such a strong mental competitor. She’s physically and mentally fit. Wisconsin was a surprising day where she didn’t look good and maybe that was a good thing. She didn’t’ take anything for granted. She ran smart, she respected everybody, didn’t expect it was going to be easy. She ran a tough, smart, sound race. She’s honestly at that point where she doesn’t really need much coaching at all. She’s showing me how things can be done when you prepare really hard physically and mentally. It was really fun to watch. I’m thrilled for her. She’s five years in. That’s what it took. Five years of emotion and energy.”
In addition to Bottorff, junior Carolyn Baskir also earned all-conference honors with a 17th place finish. Baskir, competing in just her second meet of the season, ran a time of 20:59.2. Baskir improved on her 20th-place finish from a year ago, and broke the 21-minute barrier for 6,000 meters for the third time in her career.
Freshmen Haley Meier and Hannah Meier, both competing in their first conference championship meet, finished 27th and 33rd, respectively. Haley Meier moved up steadily throughout the race, passing 27 competitors after the 2,000-meter mark and running a time of 21:26.0. Hannah Meier ran a similar race, also starting out conservatively and working through the pack, covering the course in a time of 21:35.8.
Junior Colleen Schmidt, also competing in her first conference championship meet, placed 55th overall in a time of 21:55.2. Schmidt most recently ran to a third place finish at the Royal Cross Country Challenge in Charlotte, N.C., Oct. 11.
Junior Kelsey Lakowske and senior Ashley Berry rounded out the top seven for the Blue Devils. Competing in her first meet of the season, Lakowske finished 58th overall. Similar to her teammates, the Boulder, Colo., native moved steadily through the field, passing 18 runners en route to her 22:00.2 finish. Berry finished 82nd in her first ACC Championship meet, running a time of 22:23.3.
Junior Julianna Miller and sophomore Madison Granger both entered Friday’s meet after not competing in 2012. Miller placed 92nd in a time of 22:34.8 and Granger finished less than a second behind Miller, running a time of 22:35.6.
The Blue Devils return to action Friday, Nov. 9, as the team travels to Cary, N.C., to race in the Three Stripe Invitational.