The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND CROSS COUNTRY: Runners breezing toward Invite

Chris Khorey | Friday, September 30, 2005

After two straight meets against smaller schools, the Notre Dame men’s and women’s teams will face several of the top-ranked squads in the nation in Friday’s Notre Dame Invitational at Burke Memorial Golf Course.

The meet, which has been run continuously since 1955, will host 25 men’s and 24 women’s teams in the blue division race for larger schools. Headlining the men’s field will be No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 8 Arizona and the No. 6 Irish. On the women’s side, top teams will include the No. 3 Irish, No. 5 Michigan and No. 18 Butler.

Irish men’s head coach Joe Piane said that along with having top competition, the field is very deep.

“One team who’s phenomenally underrated is Alabama,” Piane said of the Crimson Tide’s No. 35 ranked men’s team. “They have five Kenyans.”

Irish women’s head coach Tim Connelly credited the popularity of the meet among top programs to its longevity.

“To qualify for the NCAAs, there are automatic qualifying spots and at-large qualifying spots,” he said. “The at large spots are basically based on who you beat. Our meet has become one of those meets where people know they can see a lot of good competition.”

Piane agreed.

“Outside of the so-called ‘pre-national’ meets, there are two meets in the country that are really respected,” he said. “This is one of them.”

There will also be a gold division race for smaller schools. Twenty-three teams will compete on the women’s side and 24 on the men’s side. Canadian national champion Windsor and current Division III No. 1 Calvin will both run in the men’s race, while traditional Division III powerhouse Edinboro will compete in the women’s race.

“The gold race exists because the field had just gotten too big. We can’t accommodate that many people in one race,” Connelly said. “It’s primarily division one teams, but mostly those that aren’t quite top twenty caliber. There are also some really good division II and III teams.”

Both Notre Dame teams will enter rosters of younger runners in the gold race.

“We’re using the gold race for our team as an opportunity to get some younger kids some meet experience,” Connelly said.

After two meets of running freshmen and sophomores, both Irish squads will be at full strength this week in the blue race.

For the men, junior Kurt Benninger, senior Tim Moore, senior Sean O’Donell, freshman Patrick Smyth, sophomore Daniel Curran, senior Vinny Ambrico, sophomore Brett Adams and junior Todd Ptacek will compete.

“We’ve got a nice mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors,” Piane said of his lineup.

Smyth and Adams earned their way into the lineup by virtue of strong performances at both the Valparaiso Invitational Sept. 9 and the National Catholic Championships Sept. 16.

“If I decided [the ND Invitational lineup] before the season, there a couple of guys that are in the gold race that would have been in this race,” Piane said.

For the women, senior Molly Huddle, senior Stephanie Madia, sophomore Sunni Olding, freshman Ramsey Kavan, junior Katie DeRusso, senior Elizabeth Webster, senior Jean Marinangeli and junior Amy Kohlmeyer will compete.

With the weather considerably cooler this past week, coaches had to worry less about heat problems with their runners.

“It’s safer,” Piane said. “If you run a hard cross country race when it’s hot and humid you can get in trouble.”

The forecast for tomorrow is 71 degrees and sunny.