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Men’s Cross Country: Irish will try to run easily on Saturday

Joe Meixell | Friday, November 11, 2005

With the regular meet season behind them, the No. 5 Notre Dame men’s cross country team is ready to take the first official step towards a possible national championship at Saturday’s Great Lakes Regional Meet at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Irish head coach Joe Piane said the team’s goal is to finish in the top two out of 35 schools in the meet, though he is not overly concerned with the team’s finish in the race. Placing in the top two would earn the Irish an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships Nov. 21, but Notre Dame can still earn a spot in the field with an at-large selection.

Piane said he is confident the No. 5 Irish will earn a spot in the Champion-ships with the quality opponents they have beaten in the regular meet season.

“[At larges] are chosen … basically [based on] who you’ve defeated that has qualified,” he said. “For example, let’s say we get third in our region, but Georgetown, Providence and Arizona get automatic bids. We would probably get a bid, because we’ve beaten those schools.”

At No. 5 nationally, the Irish have little concern to qualify, as the NCAA selects 13 schools to complement 18 teams that earn a spot in the NCAA Championships with a top-two finish in one of nine regional meets.

Without much pressure, Piane said his team will try to relax and not get caught up in the fast start that is inevitable in a race expected to feature more than 200 competitors.

“We want to run conservatively,” he said. “Frankly, we want to run with as little effort as possible and still qualify.”

Teams often worry about collisions in races with fields as large as the regionals, but Piane said the course in Bloomington is well equipped to hold so many runners.

“We’ve run there in the past,” he said. “It’s a very fair course and it will handle [the large field.]”

The course is not known for its fast times, however. It features several hills, spread throughout all eight kilometers.

The Irish will send an experienced lineup into the meet. Seniors Tim Moore, Kaleb Van Ort, Sean O’Donnell and Vinny Ambrico, and junior Kurt Benninger all ran in this meet last year.

“People are not intimidated by the fact that they are running in such an important meet with a huge field,” Piane said.

At the end of a long cross country season, fatigue can play a factor, but Piane said his team, which hasn’t competed since the Big East Championships on Oct. 28, will be well rested for the Regionals.

“They had a wonderful week of training last week, and this week has been sort of down time,” he said. “We’re ready.”

If the Irish qualify, they will compete Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Indiana in the NCAA Championships.