DURHAM, N.C. - After two first place finishes to start the season, the Duke men’s cross country team returns to competition on Saturday, traveling to Minneapolis, Minn., for the 32nd running of the Roy Griak Invitational. The Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold Competition, scheduled to begin at 12:10 p.m., features a 16 team field that includes four nationally ranked programs.
Thirteenth-ranked Iowa State headlines the list of competitive teams attending the Roy Griak Invitational, while No. 18 Colorado State, No. 20 UCLA, and No. 25 Michigan State will also appear among the start list. In addition to the top-30 programs, Navy and Minnesota received votes in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national coaches’ poll, and 11 of the teams are ranked in the top 15 of their respective regions.
The Blue Devils send a 10-man squad that includes junior Nikhil Pulimood who is coming off his first collegiate victory at the Winthrop Invitational.
"I love the fact that our top ten guys are five freshmen and five upperclassmen, it’s a really nice split,” said head coach Norm Ogilvie. “Nikhil Pulimood being our junior leader makes a lot of sense. He’s put in the time and he’s experienced and he’s good. It was great to see him pull away for the win last weekend, but it was also awesome to see Paul Dellinger and CJ Ambrosio fight against the lone Winthrop runner with everything they had. They didn’t want to concede anything to him.”
Freshmen Dellinger and Ambrosio will run in their third meet of the season after each has finished in the top four in their first two starts. Dellinger was named co-ACC Freshmen of the Week after the Rochester, N.Y., native finished in third at the Winthrop Invitational. Junior Jordan Burton and senior Alec Kunzweiler will take the start for the second time this season after finishing in fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Winthrop Invitational.
“I think the freshmen will run well and I think that will make our upperclassmen better because I know Nikhil Pulimood, Jordan Burton and Alec Kunzweiler don’t want to be beaten by freshmen,” Ogilvie said “That’s the good thing about bringing in a good class, it makes everyone better. The most important thing is I think the chemistry is really good.”
Alex Miley, Josh Romine, and Michael Ungvarsky will all run at the Griak after finishing in the top 10 in both of their collegiate races. Junior Stephen Garrett and sophomore Cole Hoff will round out the squad after finishing in ninth and 11th at Winthrop.
“I think it will be a war of attrition on Saturday because for a lot of people, it will be their first 8K race of the year,” commented Ogilvie. “For us, it’ll be our second, but there will be a lot of people who will be debuting at that distance and if it’s a hot day and if things start going rough early, people can fold. That’s what I’m hoping, our freshmen rise to the occasion and they push our upperclassmen and that the heat helps us.”
A live stream of the race can be found here.