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Irish look to build on last season’s success

Joe Lindsley | Friday, September 5, 2003

As the Irish begin their season at the Valparaiso Invitational Friday, they embark upon what they hope will be a continuation of last season’s successes, which culminated with a third place finish in the NCAA Championship.

Friday’s race will not feature the team’s top athletes, to give other runners some key race experience, while also allowing time for rest for those who had track seasons that extended into the summer.

Nevertheless, the Irish are taking today’s race seriously.

“I think that any race you run is really important,” sophomore Stephanie Madia said. “I think that for now [Coach Tim Connelly] is just giving us some time to recover. Molly [Huddle] and Lauren [King] had a really long track season. He wants to race everyone when he knows that they’re ready.”

Madia, who as a freshman became a key runner for the Irish last year, will not be running today, nor will the team’s top one-two combination, King and Huddle, both of whom have earned All-America honors.

“[Today’s] race is a learning experience, to see where you are at in the season,” King said. “Our main goals lie at the end of the season, but this is a really important process in our training and our development. I think it’ll be a great start of the season, and it’ll barely touch what we are capable of this year.”

Senior Maggie Nelson, junior Jackie Heap, sophomores Jean Marinangli and Jenny Walsh, freshman Jenny Richard and others will represent Notre Dame. King has confidence in her team.

“I’ve been impressed with the whole team,” King said. “It seems like everyone has come in knowing what we achieved last year, and that with the right attitude and the right training we can achieve even greater results. I think the attitude among the team is amazing.”

King views last season as a turning point for the program. Although the team had no idea last August how much they would accomplish by season’s end, it was the most successful season in the history of the Notre Dame women’s cross country program, and the Irish do not expect to let last year’s momentum fizzle out.

“Last year was a big step for our program,” King said. “Everyone can see it’s possible to be up there. That is driving everyone.”

Madia believes the team is even more focused on doing well this season, now that they realize what they are capable of achieving.

“I think all of us are looking to do things better this year, to not cut corners on the little things,” she said.