Bobby Griffin | Monday, November 1, 2004
Winning a football game in overtime after being up 10 in the fourth quarter, that’s a close call. Winning the Big East cross-country championships by one point, perhaps that’s just the luck of the Irish.The Notre Dame men’s cross country team finished first in Friday’s Big East Championships, taking home the title for the fourth time in the school’s history and the first time since 2001. The women’s team missed making it an Irish sweep, finishing in second place and 25 points behind Providence.The Irish men finished just one point ahead of Georgetown, who was ranked No. 7 going into the race.”We’ve lost by one before, so we know every point counts,” Irish men’s coach Joe Piane said. “It wasn’t an easy meet by any means, and we were happy by any kind of a win.”It was quite the accomplishment for the Irish. The team knew that the field was going to be very tough, and that showed in the close finish.”We knew our major competition would come from Georgetown, and possibly Providence, and boy certainly that played out.”Tim Moore finished sixth overall in the race, finishing in 23 minutes, 53 seconds, and was the first Irish runner to cross the finish line. Kurt Benninger, Kaleb Van Ort and Sean O’Donnell joined Moore in the top 10, finishing in seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.The story of the meet, however, came from Vinny Ambrico who finished in 17th place, but showed a strong stretch late in the race.”The success of the meet came from Vinny Ambrico. He ran a real good solid race and passed three guys in [the last] 300 meters which secured the victory,” Piane said.The women’s team didn’t do too shabby, either.Coming off two straight Big East victories, the women’s cross-country team ran well but just didn’t have enough to beat the champion Lady Friars.”Going in I knew that Providence was really good and they ran really well, I mean they were going to be hard to beat,” Irish women’s coach Tim Connelly said. “I thought that we had some kids run really well, [and] we had some kids that struggled, so I don’t think that as a whole we had our best race of the season.”Molly Huddle finished fifth overall in the field, with a time of 20:16. She was followed by Stephanie Madia, who finished 10th, and Sonni Olding, who finished 12th.”I guess that second place is nothing to be ashamed of, but we obviously were going in there hoping for more,” Connelly said.Connelly only had praise for Providence, the only team at the meet who ran better than the Irish.”They aren’t ranked number two in the country for nothing, they are a good team,” Connelly said.The Irish now gear up for the regional qualifier for the NCAA championships on November 13. Regardless of what happens the rest of this season, the story of the weekend was the men’s team winning its first Big East title since 2001, with a combination of solid consistency and a touch of Ambrico’s last-second heroics.”We were anticipated the win, that was our goal when we went to the meet,” Piane said.