Thursday, September 5, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #1- Duke

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

#1 Duke
Head Coach: Kevin Jermyn (10th Season)
2012 National Finish- 7th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Juliet Bottorff (Sr., 9:21 Open 3k, 15:49 5k, 33:18 10k, 27th NCAA XC '12)
  • Kelsey Lakowske (So., 9:41 Open 3k, 16:41 5k, 20th NCAA XC ’12, 6th ACC XC ’12)
  • Carolyn Baskir (Jr., 9;49 Open 3k, 81st NCAA XC ’12, 20th ACC XC ’12)
  • Ashley Brasovan (Sr., 35:41 10k, 22nd ACC XC ’12)
  • Jessie Rubin (Jr., 9:47 Open 3k, 16:30 5k, 44th ACC XC ’12)
  • Gabby Levac (Jr., 16:13 5k, 61st ACC XC ’12)
  • Sophia Ziemian (Sr., 23rd ACC XC ’09, 146th NCAA XC ’09, 16:48 5k)
  • Lindsey Olivere (Redshirt Soph- 4:56 1600m, 10:35 3200m, 7th 2 Mile NBIN ’11)
  • Colleen Schmidt (Redshirt Soph- 9:40 3k (HS), FL Finalist ’09 -27th)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Wesley Frazier (Fr., 4:45 1600m, 9:57 3200m, 15:55 5k (HS))
  • Haley Meier (Fr., 4:42 1600m, 3rd Dream Mile- 4:42)
  • Hannah Meier (Fr., 4:18 1500m (HS), 2nd Dream Mile- 4:40)
  • Olivia Bischof (Redshirt Frosh- 4:56 1600m (HS), 10:33 3200m (HS), FL Finalist ’11)
  • Allison Sturges (Redshirt Frosh- 4:47 1600m (HS))
  • Colette Whitney (Tr- Sr.- 4:55 1600m (HS), 10:27 3200m (HS)
  • Briana Jackucewicz (Transfer from Harvard – 16:43 5k)
Season Preview

Coach Kevin Jermyn is a very good recruiter and quite possibly the most underrated recruiter in the NCAA. After looking at the recruiting classes that he has brought in over the past few years in Durham, its unbelievable the kind of talent he has snagged. To be frank, the more and more this team was studied and the quality of runners on this team, he it almost became laughable--the overall level of talent that Duke has. 

Finishing 7th last year at NCAAs was big time for this program and they saw some awesome performances out of some unproven talent. With three of those athletes returning from 2012 and the best recruit in the country (and two other dang good recruits), Duke is looking like the best team in the country for 2013 (on paper). 

It all starts with the veteran leader Juliet Botorff. Her chops on the track and on the cross country course, make her the most valuable member of this Blue Devil squad. All-American finishes indoor and in xc last year, and a National Title in the 10k Outdoors in 2011 on her belt, she is the no. 1 runner on this team going into the 2013 season. 

The surprise on this Duke team last year was then-freshman, Kelsey Lakowske. Actually beating Botorff at NCAAs, Lakowske was surprisingly very good when it counted and ended up 20th individually in Louisville. Although her track season was cut to only a few indoor races and an ACC Championship 5k (finished 8th), Lakowske should be able to come back this xc season and provide the same fire up front that she did in 2012. If she can stay healthy and continue to progress as a runner, she will be another shoo-in All-American for the Blue Devils. 

Duke has so many quality girls that are coming back from 2012 that it would be hard to give in depth highlights on them, but as you can see above they have a lot of talent. Carolyn Baskir is a solid 4-5 girl on this team in 2013 and if she ends up being no. 5 and does just as well as she did last year (81st), Duke is in for a great year.  Gabby Levac made huge strides on the track this past spring, running 16:13 outdoors. If her progression is where it looks like, she could be the no. 4 runner for this squad. Jessie Rubin is another girl that improved a ton on the track and who knows where she could end up. Rubin would be a very solid 6-7 runner. Sophia Zieman will be back in action this year and has quality experience at the NCAA level. Lindsey Olivere and Colleen Schmidt are both coming off of redshirt years and have talent, it will be interesting to see where they end up on the depth chart. 

For the rest of the country, things for Duke only get scarier. Bringing in the no-brainer best senior distance runner in high school last season, Wesley Frazier, was huge for the Devils. Running 15:55 as a senior in high school is out-of-this-world good and she is the epitome of the phrase "instant offense." It she is not All-American this year, that would be a huge surprise. So you can count up at least three "shoo-in" All-Americans already. 

It gets deeper. The Meier twins from Michigan add depth to this already star-studded class. Hannah and Haley were outstanding on the track in 2013 and were 2nd and 3rd behind none other than Wesley Frazier in the dream mile. Both of the Meier girls are excellent track athletes, but will be able to help them in xc as well. 

Three high school studs that redshirted or transferred in will also be helpful for Duke. Allison Sturges, Colette Whitney, and Olivia Bischof, are also very unproven, but capable athletes. Briana Jackucewicz rounds out the runners that have not yet had a chance to prove themselves in a Duke uniform that are more components of a very, very deep squad. 

The ACC is going to be a big test for the Blue Devils as Florida State has won six straight titles. An upset-bid to do so is likely as Duke is loaded. In fact, they have 10 different girls that would be a lot of schools 1-5 in the NCAA. With the freshman Frazier pushing the veterans up front, it's a perfect balance of youth and naivety and experience and ability to make the Duke Blue Devils the number one team in the country headed into the 2013 season. They are the heavy favorites, as of right now, to win the NCAA title in Terre Haute. 

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