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MEN’S X-C: Team set to run in Crusader Invitational today

Chris Khorey | Friday, September 9, 2005

The Notre Dame men’s cross country team will begin its season Friday at the Crusader Invitational at Valparaiso University.

The meet, which features mostly small schools, will serve as a tune-up for the Irish before the National Catholic Championships and the Notre Dame Invitational, both at home later this month.

Because of the relatively weak field, Irish head coach Joe Piane decided to rest several of his top runners and give younger team members a chance to compete.

Irish regulars who will not be running include senior Tim Moore, fifth-year senior Sean O’Donnell, junior Kurt Benninger and senior Kaleb Van Ort.

“Some of the younger guys need the experience,” Piane said of his roster for Friday.

Piane said Moore, O’Donnell, Benninger and Van Ort will not travel to Valparaiso with the team, but instead will work out at Notre Dame and drive together to the meet to cheer on their teammates.

Sophomore Brett Adams, senior Tom Longo, sophomore Daniel Bradley, sophomore Zach Einterz, sophomore James Millar, sophomore Mike Popejoy, freshman Kevin McFadden, freshman Mark Moore and freshman Chris Rodriguez will all run Friday for the Irish.

Each runner will be experiencing his first chance to be in the team’s top five and score points for the Irish. Only Adams has previous collegiate meet experience, and that was in junior varsity meets.

The Crusader Invitational field will feature eight teams in addition to the Irish: Chicago State, IUPUI, Oakland, St. Joseph’s (Ind.), Western Illinois, Wisconsin-Green Bay and the hosts, Valparaiso.

None are expected to seriously challenge the Irish, who swept the top five and seven of the top eight positions at the meet last year for a perfect score of 15.

But Piane is not worried about motivation.

“For various reasons, everyone who is running in this race is enthusiastic about it,” Piane said. “It’s a good way for them to contribute to the team.”

Piane said the team ran workouts together for most of the week, but on Thursday, runners competing at Valparaiso ran distance while those not competing ran a faster-paced four-mile tempo workout.

While the team has been running hills in preseason practices, they have not been a priority because the Irish will compete on two mostly hillless courses – Valparaiso and their home circuit on the Burke Memorial Golf Course during the month of September.

Also, like the course at Notre Dame, the Valparaiso course repeats itself several times.

“It’s three loops, relatively flat,” Piane said of the course. “It’s pretty good from a spectators point of view. Fans can see quite a bit of the race.”

After the Crusader Invitational and the two home meets, the Irish have two weeks off before the Pre-National Championship in Terre Haute, Ind. and another two weeks before the Big East Championships in The Bronx, New York.