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Invite draws 95 teams

Steve Coyer | Friday, October 1, 2004

The top cross country runners in the nation will assemble today at Notre Dame for one of the oldest and largest intercollegiate races.

With a total of 95 teams participating, the 49th annual Notre Dame Invitational features some of the best talent in both Division I and II cross country. The women’s race will feature nine Division I teams ranked in the top 30 with eight ranked men’s teams included.

“The competition is a whole different world in this meet compared to what we have seen so far,” women’s coach Tim Connelly said. “At the same time we need to face this challenge if we want to succeed later in the season.”

The Irish men have already won two invitational meets this season but will have a considerable challenge to continue their streak. Ranked No. 29 in a preseason poll, the men’s team will run against the likes of No. 2 Stanford and No. 9 Brigham Young.

An equally strong field awaits the women’s team as it faces No. 1 Stanford and No. 6 Michigan. While the Irish women currently are ranked fourth, the team knows the race will be a battle.

“We have our work cut out for us despite our national ranking,” Connelly said.

The Irish women will be led by junior Molly Huddle, who took first place at the 2003 Notre Dame Invitational. Senior Laurie King was expected to be the No. 2 runner for the women but she will not compete today.

“We felt that [Laurie] King was not quite ready to race,” Connelly said. “Her absence will definitely hurt us but we need her at full strength later in the season.”

After a first-place performance at the National Catholic Invitational, Tim Moore looks to be the lead runner for the Irish men. Moore also finished third last season at the Notre Dame Invitational.

In addition to the Division I teams that compete in the blue division, there will also be a gold division comprised of Division II and III teams. The Irish will field teams in both divisions.

“There will be a good opportunity in the gold division for our more-inexperienced runners to race against strong competition,” Connelly said.

The Notre Dame Invitational begins at the Burke Memorial Golf Course today at 2 p.m. A total of five races will take place with the women’s blue division starting at 4:15 p.m. and the men’s race at 5 p.m.