Both men's and women's cross country teams kick start the 2005 campaign Wednesday at home in a dual meet against North Carolina Central. Five harriers will race Wednesday on Duke University's Fit Loop in the Duke Forest, as the rest of the team gears up for meets this weekend. The men travel to the University of Virginia Saturday to compete in the Lou Onesty Invitational, while the women head to San Diego, Calif., for the San Diego Invitational. As both sides contemplate the season in front of them, they are excited about what may lie ahead.
One word sums up the sentiment of the Duke cross country team as it prepares to open its 2005 season: optimistic. Head men’s coach
The women’s cross country team at Duke had its best year in program history in 2004. After capturing the school’s first ever ACC Championship in cross country, the team raced to a regional championship and a second-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Six seniors – captains Laura Stanley and Liz Wort and Clara Horowitz, Sally Meyerhoff, Natasha Roetter and Shannon Rowbury – are back to guide the rest of the team to an even better year.
“We have the potential of doing as well if not better than last year performance-wise,” said Jermyn. “We have the ability to be stronger spot for spot, and our goal is to narrow the gap between the first and fifth runners, so we’re not just having a 1-5 spread but a 1-8 or 1-10 spread. That way, if someone gets hurt, or if someone is ill one meet, we still have good depth.”
Depth will be a key factor for both cross country teams this year. The men’s team had four reliable runners in 2004, but five count in the official score. Ogilvie thinks he has the talent this year.
“We are excited about this season,” Ogilvie said. “Our goal is to return to the NCAA Championships, and I think this is the group to do it. Duke went to NCAAs three times in four years from 1998 to 2001, and our expectation for 2005 is to do that once again.”
The men’s distance runners made great strides during the 2005 track season, previewing what the team might have to look forward to this year. Junior captain Keith Krieger will probably be seen at the front of the pack of Blue Devil runners this season after earning recognition last spring as the first Duke student-athlete to break the 30-minute mark in the 10,000m, which is also the distance raced at the NCAA Championship for cross country.
Sophomore Chris Spooner will also lead the way in 2005. Spooner ran third man for the Blue Devils at NCAA pre-nationals and the ACC Championships in 2004, placing in the top 20 and second among the conference’s freshmen at ACCs. Spooner earned All-East honors in indoor track and has had a strong summer of training to prepare for the cross country season.
“Keith has a legitimate shot of pursuing All-America honors this season,” said Ogilvie, “and I think Chris Spooner will be keeping him company. Those two are going to offer Duke cross country a very strong one-two punch this year.”
Krieger and Spooner will be backed by three harriers who qualified to run the 10K at the IC4A Championships last year: senior co-captain Chas Salmen and juniors Alex Romero and Dan Daly. The three will round out a solid top five but will be challenged by younger runners. The 2005 freshman class includes two high school All-Americas in Kevin McDermott and Geary Gubbins. McDermott, the younger brother of junior Sean McDermott, competed in the Pan American Junior Championships over the summer. Freshman Devin McDaniel has also looked strong in early season practices.
The group of seniors on the women’s team is the largest the program has had, and it has accumulated a wealth of NCAA experience in three years, finishing 17th at the national championships in 2002, 20th in 2003 and just barely missing the national title with a second-place finish in 2004.
The class will be expected to guide the largest freshman class that Duke cross country has ever seen as well. A dozen newcomers join the Blue Devils in 2005, including two top-ten finishers at the 2004 Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in Whitney Anderson (fourth) and Maddie McKeever (ninth).
Both men’s and women’s cross country teams are optimistic about the season but will face tough competition in the ACC as well as nationally.
“We know that we are going to be better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will improve on our finishing result,” said Jermyn. “At the same time we’re getting better, we know that other teams have the potential to improve too. It’s a waste of time to try to evaluate who is returning on other teams, what freshmen are coming in, who’s transferring in and that kind of thing. We just know that we are better, and possibly, being better could result in a higher finish.”