EARLYSVILLE, Va. - In its first major test of the 2012 campaign, the Duke men's cross country team overcame a number of setbacks to earn a fifth-place finish Saturday at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational.
Sophomore Shaun Thompson led the way for the Blue Devils in 18th place, clocking a personal-best time of 24:39.4 on the 8K course. Thompson was Duke's top finisher for the second time this fall after taking first overall at the season-opening Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational, a performance which garnered him Atlantic Coast Conference Performer of the Week honors.
Senior Dominick Robinson crossed the line just behind Thompson at 24:43.1 to match his personal best at the 8K distance, while junior Brian Atkinson posted a mark of 25:11.9 to place 29th. In his first cross country race in well over a year, senior Mike Moverman recorded a time of 25:25.8 to finish 34th. Junior Lucas Talavan-Becker contributed a strong performance as the Blue Devils' fifth man, taking 37th with a time of 25:38.9, and freshman William Hague (48th), sophomore Phil Fairleigh (61st), freshman William Rooney (66th) and freshman Daniel Moore (68th) rounded out the Duke contingent.
The Blue Devils persevered to take fifth in the field of 10 schools despite encountering tough circumstances prior to and during Saturday morning's race. Senior Domenick DeMatteo, the squad's top performer at the same meet a year ago, was not able to make the trip to Virginia due to illness, and sophomore Alec Klassen was forced to withdraw Saturday morning because of injury. In addition, one of Duke's most experienced runners, graduate student James Kostelnik, retired around the 3 mile mark of the race due to injury.
"We had a rough day and actually with the fifth-place finish - we kind of overcame some things," said head coach Norm Ogilvie. "It's tough when you have your top guy drop out. It makes it difficult to give it your best, especially on a hot day."
Fourth-ranked Oklahoma won the meet with a team score of 40 points, followed by No. 22 Arkansas in second (61), host Virginia in third (66) and No. 21 Michigan in fourth (75). The Blue Devils totaled 135 points to edge out squads from California, Kentucky, Norfolk State, VCU and Howard, improving to 9-4 overall and 1-1 against ACC competition.
"I think when we have a few more weeks to get some other guys back 100 percent, we will have a better chance to challenge some of those strong teams," Ogilvie said.
Duke returns to action Sept. 28 at the Great American Cross Country Festival in nearby Cary, N.C. before traveling to Louisville, Ky. - the site of the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships - for the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 13.
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