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ND CROSS COUNTRY: Both Irish teams take second

Chris Khorey | Monday, November 14, 2005

Both the Notre Dame men’s and women’s teams kept their national championship dreams alive Saturday, qualifying for the NCAA Championship meet with second place finishes at the Great Lakes Regional meet in Bloomington, Ind.

The No. 5 men’s team ran conservatively, using a pack strategy to ensure a solid finish without overextending themselves before the NCAAs.

“We wanted to automatically qualify, but we wanted to qualify with a minimum amount of effort,” Irish men’s coach Joe Piane said. “Frankly, we knew if we were in the top four in the meet, we’d get a bid. Obviously, if we were in the top two, we would qualify automatically, but we felt if we were in the top four, we would get an at-large bid anyway.”

Piane said his team’s strong running throughout the year allowed them to take it easy during the regionals.

“It’s pretty rare that you can do that,” he said. “It’s a wonderful luxury.”

Still, Piane said that the team cannot expect to be conservative in the NCAAs and come away with a national championship.

“We’ve got to step it up, but I think we can,” Piane said. “There were very few teams that could cruise through the region meet like we did.”

Kurt Benninger led the Irish, who finished second to defending regional champion Wisconsin.

The junior finished second overall with a time of 31:06.

Seniors Sean O’Donnell, Tim Moore and Kaleb Van Ort ran in a tight pack for most of the race and finished 11th, 12th and 13th respectively.

Benninger ran with the pack for the first half of the race but pulled away over the last four kilometers.

Freshman Patrick Smyth was the No. 5 runner for Notre Dame, rounding out the Irish scoring lineup in 20th place with a time of 31:45.

“That was a terrific performance for a freshman,” Piane said. “He ran a great race.”

The No. 4 Irish women were led, as usual, by All-Americans Molly Huddle, Stephanie Madia and Sunni Olding, who all finished in the top 10 with times under 21:20.

Freshman Ramsey Kavan, who has been running with the three All-Americans all season, finished tenth Saturday with a time of 21:30.

Kavan was the highest-placing freshman in the meet.

“She’s done an absolutely great job,” Madia said of Kavan. “She’s been pretty mature and dealt with a higher level of competition really great.”

Madia also said the Notre Dame top four, who have all placed in the top 11 of three meets this year, have developed chemistry that has helped them in meets this year.

“I think the top four of us on any given day, whoever feels the best can take the lead,” she said. “We’re all really good friends, so I think that helps. We all want to help each other and get the job done for each other.”

Jean Marinangeli, Elizabeth Webster and Katie DeRusso have competed all year to be the No. 5 runner for the Irish. Webster was fifth on the team with a 46th place finish Saturday.

Although Marinangeli, Webster and DeRusso have struggled most of the year to keep up with the top four, Madia said she is confident they will do well at the NCAAs.

“I have every confidence in the world in Jean, Elizabeth and Katie,” she said. “I know if they run their best and have a good race, then we’ll be happy at nationals. In cross country, if everyone runs their best and things don’t work out, there isn’t much you can do, but we think if we all run well we have a chance to compete at nationals.”

The NCAA meet will be held Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind on the campus of Indiana State.