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Irish return home for first big race this fall

Steve Coyer | Friday, September 17, 2004

In their first large race of the year, the men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete today in the 25th annual National Catholic Invitational held at Notre Dame.

The Irish runners have enjoyed great success at the invitational over the years with a total of 20 individual titles and 26 team victories. In 2003, both Notre Dame squads walked away with team titles.

The Catholic Invitational includes schools from across the nation with 34 teams competing in the women’s field and 32 on the men’s side. However, only 10 of the teams have Division I status.

“We will not face the type of competition we expect down the road,” women’s head coach Tim Connelly said. “We still want to use this race as a chance to improve the more inexperienced runners.”

After a convincing sweep at the Valparaiso Invitational last week, the Irish men will bring even more depth to their squad.

Junior Kaleb Van Ort and senior Sean O’Donnell will return to the men’s lineup for their first invitational this season. Van Ort finished second overall at the 2003 Catholic Invitational while O’Donnell took third.

Senior Ryan Johnson and sophomore Austin Weaver also will compete after strong races at Valparaiso.

The Irish women will enter all top five runners from last week including Elizabeth Webster and Katie DeRusso who placed in the top ten at Valparaiso.

In her first race this season, Senior Kerry Meagher looks to defend her 2003 individual title at the Catholic Invitational. However, the women’s team has yet to field all their runners.

“We will probably be at full strength by next week for the Notre Dame Invitational,” Connelly said. “This meet is another step along the way towards the Big East and NCAA championship meets.”

Although the Irish have more important meets on their upcoming schedule, the team will put forth a complete effort.

“With our schedule we don’t race that often,” Connelly said. “So when we have a meet we’re going to compete.”

The National Catholic Invitational will be held today on the Burke Memorial Golf Course route at 5 p.m.