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Irish teams place 2nd

Bobby Griffin | Monday, November 15, 2004

As the common saying goes, the second-place team is the first loser.

This was not necessarily true for the men’s and women’s cross country teams as they both finished second in the Great Lakes NCAA regional race this weekend.

By finishing second, each team received automatic bids to the NCAA championship race, which will take place Nov. 22. The top two teams qualified for the NCAA championships.

Kurt Benninger continued his solid season for the Irish, finishing in third place overall, seven seconds behind the leader with a time of 30:17. He was the first Notre Dame runner to cross the finish line.

Kaleb Van Ort and Tim Moore also placed in the top 10 for the Irish, both finishing with times of 30:25.

“Our front four fellas ran especially well,” head coach Joe Piane said, referring to Benninger, Van Ort, Moore and Sean O’Donnell, who finished in 19th overall, with a time of 30:35.

Piane was also quick to give credit to the other Irish runners, namely Vinny Ambrico.

“Vinny Ambrico, our fifth man, did a fine job. He did exactly what I asked him to do, and that was go out a little bit more conservatively … and try to work [his] way through the pack,” Piane said. “We’ll probably have to change that strategy a little bit for the next time we race, but I thought he did a great job.”

The 82 points for the Irish were 55 behind that of Wisconsin, who won the race. The Badgers are currently ranked No. 1 in the country.

“We were pleased, we went there to get an automatic qualifier and we did,” Piane said.

Coach Piane also stressed that it would be very important to repeat the same intensity that the Irish had in this weekend’s race, next Monday in the NCAA’s.

“[We need to] reproduce that kind of performance, and probably move it up just a notch,” Piane said.

For the women, Stephanie Madia led all Irish runners, finishing in fourth place overall with a time of 20:10.

Coach Tim Connelly praised his team for running the race they did, commenting at length about the performances of Madia, Olding, Meagher, Lauren King, who finished 24th with a 21:02, and Jean Marinangili, who finished 26th with a 21:13.

“I thought our kids competed really well, and got done what we needed to get done,” Connelly said.

The Irish finished with a total of 79 points, trailing Michigan, who won with 40 points.

“Our goal was to be in the top two, and we thought we had seven people run about as well as they could on that day,” Connelly said.

Going into the national championship race, Connelly spoke about the importance of not trying to do too much, and the dangers that can be avoided if the team simply stays focused on what they have been doing all season.

“I think the key to doing well at that meet, is not going in with the mentality that you have to do something totally different than what you’ve done all year,” Connelly said. “If you can avoid overreaching and just run the type of race you’ve been running all year you’re probably going to be pretty successful.”