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Freshmen get expereince at Valparaiso meet

Joe Lindsley | Monday, September 8, 2003

Running without their top athletes, the women’s cross country team, led by sophomore Jean Marinangeli, took first place at Friday’s Valparaiso Invitational.

The men saw similar results, as the younger and less experienced Irish harriers pulled off a second-place finish with four runners in the top 10.

“We were hoping to allow the freshmen to have a good experience with their first 6K,” sophomore Elizabeth Webster said. “We were hoping to come out at least second, and we were surprised to take the victory.”

Not only did the women take the team title, but Marinangeli also finished first individually. Her 22:16 performance for the six-kilometer race gave the second-year Irish runner her first career victory. She was closely followed by senior Maggie Nelson, who finished in 22:29. Webster came in fourth overall, with a 23:04 performance.

Both the men’s and women’s teams had pulled their top runners from the races in order to give extra time off to those who were still recovering from extended track seasons, as well as to afford freshmen and others additional race experience.

For the women freshmen, Friday’s race was their first 6,000-meter experience, and for the men, their first 8,000-meter race.

“We thought we would do well,” Marinangeli said. “We didn’t expect to win, but we expected to go out there and just get a feel for where we were at.”

The strong performances of the team’s less experienced runners proved to the Irish that they have depth, which likely will be a great asset to them as the season gets tougher.

“[The freshmen] handled the race very well and really came through for us,” Webster said. “Coming off of this race, the whole team has confidence right now. It gives us a sense of what to expect in the future, and we realize that the team is fairly deep.”

The men were in a similar situation.

“[Irish coach Joe Piane] obviously held out a lot of guys,” senior Brian Kerwin said. “He either threw in some guys who needed some more experience, or who he thought could benefit from an extra race in the season. There are a lot of people who could benefit from extra experience.”

The men were led by Kerwin, who finished second with an 8,000-meter time of 25:13. Sophomore Austin Weaver arrived in 25:37, putting him in fifth place. Junior A.J. Andrassy and sophomore Tom Longo finished eighth and ninth, respectively, and junior Michael Manning rounded out the Irish top five with his 16th place finish.

“Even though we didn’t have all the varsity runners, we feel like everyone on our team is pretty good,” Weaver said. “We felt that we could run with anyone at that meet.”

According to Kerwin, one of Notre Dame’s major focuses at Valparaiso was helping the incoming runners adjust to the increased rigor of collegiate cross-country.

“It’s a good meet to break in the freshmen,” Kerwin said. “We had a lot of older guys in there trying to show them the ropes. It was kind of a low key meet, so when some of the bigger meets come up they’re not in a world of shock.”

Both the men and the women will host their first home event of the season Sept. 19 when teams from many of the nation’s Catholic schools come to the Burke Memorial Golf Course for the National Catholic Invitational. While the competition will be tougher than Friday’s race, and the top runners will likely run, both Irish squads will not see much national caliber competition until later in the season.

“Ever since the big name teams quit coming to it, the competition hasn’t been all that good,” Weaver said. “But there are a few individuals [who are very good]. It’s more of a team race, where we just work on working together in the races, talking and helping each other, to sharpen up a little bit before any of the big meets roll around.”