DURHAM, N.C. -- The 28th-ranked Duke women’s cross country team travels to Charlottesville, Va., Friday to compete in the Southeast Regional Championship. Thirty-nine teams are set to toe the line of the 6,000-meter Panorama Farms course. In addition to Duke, nationally-ranked opponents Virginia (No. 11) and William and Mary (No. 19) are also set to compete. The top-two finishing teams at the event earn an automatic bid to the national championship, while others will receive at-large bids, based on a number of factors.
“I feel like we can definitely finish in the top two,” head women’s cross country coach Kevin Jermyn said. “Things have progressed well over the last two weeks. Our last race went better than the races before that, so we’re a team that’s getting better and better. The longer the season would go on, probably the better we’ll be. We’re feeling pretty good about things. The key is that we’re trying to focus on going out there and running a race and not defining success or failure on whether we get second or third. We can’t control, completely, how good everyone else is, so honestly, I’d like to see us go into the race more excited, with better composure, and just simply do our best.”
Graduate student Juliet Bottorff once again highlights the Blue Devil squad heading into Friday’s competition. A two-time All-ACC Performer of the Week in 2013, as well as a National Performer of the Week recipient, Bottorff returns to action after earning the ACC individual title two weeks earlier, the first for a Blue Devil since 2005. The Newark, Del., native placed second at last year’s regional meet, leading the Blue Devils to a first-place finish.
Juniors Carolyn Baskir and Kelsey Lakowske both step to the starting line for the second time this season, following appearances at the ACC Championship. Baskir finished second for the Blue Devils and 17th overall at this year’s conference meet, earning the Chapel Hill, N.C., native a spot on the All-ACC squad. Baskir placed 12th during the 2012 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship, clocking a personal-best time of 20:52.21. Lakowske placed ninth at last season’s Southeast Regional meet, and finished 58th at the conference meet.
The remaining Duke harriers scheduled to compete, including sophomore Anima Banks, freshmen Haley Meier and Hannah Meier and senior Jessie Rubin, appear in a regional meet for the first time in their collegiate careers. Banks provided great depth for the Blue Devils throughout the season, steadily improving to finish as Duke’s number two runner in two meets this season. Both Haley and Hannah Meier, acclimating to their first year of collegiate competition, finished 27th and 33rd, respectively, at the ACC Championship meet two weeks ago. Both Meiers contributed regularly throughout the season for the Blue Devils, scoring in six of their seven collective appearances. Rubin, entering her first cross country race of 2013, returns to Duke’s lineup after recovering from an injury that kept her from competition earlier in the season.
Although the team faced adversity throughout the season, in the form of injury and illness, Jermyn is confident the Blue Devils benefited from the challenges, and the experience will translate into a strong showing Friday.
“The thing I’m confident about is our physical best is real good,” Jermyn said. “As a team, I think we need to learn how to control our goals and fears and anxiety better, as we go. That’s what we’re doing. We’re getting experience doing that. It’s probably one of the most valuable things getting out of this year, knowing we’ve had a lot of expectations internally and externally and we’ve struggled with some of those. That’s the very thing that will get them used to how to handle high goals and getting nervous that [the goals] might not happen. We’re definitely struggling through that process and I think we’re getting closer to finding our natural selves.”
Results of the competition are available here.
The women are set to compete at 1:15 p.m. Friday.