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Cross Country: Pre-National meet preparation for Big Easts

Joe Lindsley | Friday, October 17, 2003

Saturday at the Pre-National meet at the University of Northern Iowa, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will have their first taste of the competition they will face at the national championships in November.

Both squads are coming off victories two weeks ago at the Notre Dame Invitational, which included a sampling of some top 25 teams. Saturday’s event is important for the Irish as strong performances could help them obtain at-large bids to the National Championships if they do not automatically advance to the title race by finishing in the top two at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Nov. 15.

The Irish women are currently ranked fifth nationally and Saturday will be the strongest competition they have faced so far this season. Notre Dame will contend with the likes of No. 1 BYU, No. 8 Georgetown, No. 23 Princeton and No. 22 Michigan. The Irish, who have three victories in three races this season, will be running without sophomore Loryn King, who is now out for the season due to injury. Additionally, an injury will keep senior Maggie Nelson from running.

But the Irish will have the services of their top runners, the All-America duo of sophomore Molly Huddle and junior Lauren King. Huddle took first place at the Notre Dame Invitational, and King took second. Senior Megan Johnson will also be aiding the Irish. Nelson took 21st at the race two weeks ago.

The Irish will also be supported by senior Katie Wales, sophomore Jean Marinangeli and junior Kerry Meagher, who finished seventh at the Notre Dame Invitational. Additionally, sophomore Stephanie Madia, a top runner as a freshman, will be participating in her first race of the season.

Last season the men, who are currently ranked 15th, were one of the last teams to receive an at-large bid to the national championship meet. For the first time this season, the Irish will be able to find out just where they fit among the country’s top teams, allowing them to gauge their progress towards their goal of a top ten finish at the national championship race.

Notre Dame will likely be led by sophomore Tim Moore, who two weeks ago finished third in the competitive Notre Dame Invitational, which was his first race of the season. Senior Todd Mobley is also expected to aide the Irish effort. Mobley, a former All-American, has been in the process of getting back to his old form after an injury one year ago at the Pre-National meet caused him to miss the Big East Championships and hurt his performance in the post-season races.

An Irish newcomer, freshman Kurt Benninger, will be an important asset to the team. Benninger was third for Notre Dame at the race two weeks ago, when he crossed the line in 12th place overall. Junior Sean O’Donnell and sophomore Kaleb Van Ort as well as seniors Brian Kerwin and David Alber will also be representing Notre Dame as the Irish contend against 43 nationally ranked teams, including No. 3 Northern Arizona, No. 5 Colorado and No. 11 Ohio State.

In two weeks, both teams will travel to the Bronx for the Big East Championships.