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ND WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY: Irish take third at Valpo Invite

Ryan Kiefer | Monday, September 12, 2005

Late summer heat and inexperience took their toll on the Notre Dame women’s cross country team Friday at the Crusader Invitational.

The Irish tallied 72 points to match last year’s third place finish at the event, but coach Tim Connelly was not pleased with his team’s results.

“This was definitely not our best effort this afternoon,” Connelly said. “We’ve trained a lot better than this, and I was disappointed at the way things turned out.”

The Irish chose to send their younger, less experienced runners to Valparaiso in an effort to build their confidence and give them the opportunity to race. Notre Dame’s top runners continued to train over the weekend.

Junior Ann Mazur was the first Notre Dame runner to cross the line, finishing sixth in 23 minutes, 30 seconds for the six-kilometer course. Other Irish athletes who finished in the top 20 included freshman Becca Bauman, who finished ninth in her first collegiate race (23:35), sophomore Julie Opet (16th, 23:41) and sophomore Allyson Parker (19th, 23:52). Loryn King, the lone competitor with significant top-seven experience, finished 25th. The senior competed in her first race in several months after sustaining an injury during the track season.

Connelly said that the heat adversely affected his runners as the race wore on. Temperatures approached 80 degrees by race time Friday afternoon.

“We told them not to go out so fast because of the heat, but they did,” Connelly said. “They got in trouble in the middle part of the race and had to deal with it. Some of them were able to compete and fight it, others were not.”

Connelly saw a few bright spots in Friday’s race, including the performance of his top two finishers, Mazur and Bauman.

“I did like the race that Ann and Becca ran, but as a group, we should have done better,” Connelly said.

The Irish coach felt his team was physically ready to succeed at Valparaiso, but also said that the intense training, combined with a lack of experience, may have been reasons for the subpar performance. He said his runners were not rested entering the meet.

Connelly made it clear, however, that the goal is for his runners to be in the best possible condition at the end of the season and would sacrifice results in early season races to meet this goal.

The Irish will hold their first home meet of the season, the National Catholic Championship, Friday at the Burke Memorial Golf Course. Notre Dame is expected to add more experience to their line-up for Friday as they attempt to win the race for the 12th time in the last 14 years.