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ND CROSS-COUNTRY: Madia and Huddle lead the Notre Dame pack

Chris Khorey | Monday, October 3, 2005

Together, Stephanie Madia and Molly Huddle sprinted towards the finish.

The pair of Irish seniors edged Michigan’s Aly Kohlmeyer by four seconds and one second, respectively, to take the first two spots in the women’s Blue race to lead their team to a third place finish in the Notre Dame Invitational Friday at the Burke Memorial Golf Course.

On the men’s side, senior Kurt Benninger led the Irish with a time of 23:42 and a fifth-place finish, as Notre Dame took second.

Irish men’s head coach Joe Piane was pleased with the result but said his team will continue to improve. Frontrunners Benninger and Tim Moore were competing in their first race of the season after Piane sent young lineups to the Valparaiso Invitational and National Catholic Championships.

“They looked a little bit flat because they haven’t raced, but in this sport you can’t race every weekend,” Piane said. “They’ll get better.”

Notre Dame was also without third runner Kaleb Van Ort, who would have been expected to finish near Moore, who took 10th.

“We didn’t run Kaleb Van Ort because he’s coming off a stress fracture injury. If we had Kaleb in there, we would have had four in the top 15,” Piane said. “He’s [practicing] right now. God willing, he’ll be back for our next meet.”

The third finisher for the Irish was fifth-year senior Sean O’Donnell, who finished 18th at 24:08. Freshmen Patrick Smyth was the fourth runner for the Irish Friday, finishing 34th with a time of 24:32. Sophomore Dan Curran, who was 37th in 24:37, rounded out the scoring runners for Notre Dame.

The next Notre Dame runner to cross the finish line was junior Todd Ptacek, who clocked a time of 25:02 and finished 61st. Sophomore Brett Adams rounded out the lineup for the Irish, crossing the line in 25:08 and finishing 69th.

Arizona won the meet, led by Obed Mutanya’s second place finish. Florida and Florida State took third and fourth, respectively.

Madia and Huddle led the women, finishing first and second with times of 16:36 and 16:39, respectively. The Irish had two more runners, sophomore Sunni Olding (ninth place with a time of 17:14) and freshman Ramsey Kavan (eleventh place with a time of 17:16), finish in the top 11.

Unfortunately for the Irish, fifth runner Jean Marinangeli got off to a poor start and was unable to catch up to the front runners, finishing 68th with a time of 18:06.

“I knew our top four would be good, but that we’d need to work on finding a fifth runner. I didn’t think it would be that bad though,” Irish women’s head coach Tim Connelly said. “Quite honestly, a course like this for a kid like Jean, she couldn’t get out very well. She closed well, but it’s hard to come from behind on a course like this.”

Connelly said he was disappointed that his team, which would have won the meet if its fifth runner had placed higher, did not have the depth to be successful Friday. Senior Elizabeth Webster and Junior Katie DeRusso also competed for Notre Dame, but neither finished higher than 88th.

“We’ve got people capable of running well at five, but today they just didn’t get it done,” he said.

Michigan won the women’s race, followed by Illinois. Wake Forest finished a distant fourth to the Irish.

Both Irish teams entered runners in the Gold race, in which mainly smaller schools competed.

Senior A.J. Andrassy, freshman Mark Moore, freshman Robbie Barany, sophomore Dan Bradley, sophomore Jake Watson, freshman Chris Rodriguez, sophomore Zach Einterz and sophomore Mike Popejoy competed on the men’s side.

Freshman Morgan Shulz, sophomore Julie Opet, freshman Becca Baumen, sophomore Ally Parker, senior Loryn King, freshman Heidi Rocha, sophomore Mary Debevec and freshman Elena Brandwie competed on the women’s side.

The men’s team also entered senior Tom Longo in the open race for individuals.

Both Irish teams will next be in action Oct. 15 at the Pre-National Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.