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ND Cross Country: Irish travel to Terre Haute for Pre-Nationals

Jay Fitzpatrick | Tuesday, October 24, 2006

After racing consecutive meets at Burke Memorial Golf Course at Notre Dame, the Irish will venture to Terra Haute, Ind., Saturday to compete in the Pre-National Meet, another tune-up race before the all-important post-season races begin.The men’s team is coming off back-to-back top five finishes at home, including a win in the National Catholic Championship (NCC) and a very strong fourth-place tie in the Notre Dame Invitational. Although the team actually finished worse in the latter race, which featured strong competition from a field that included seven top-30 teams.The team is led by sophomore Patrick Smyth and senior Kurt Benninger, both of whom finished in the top 15 of the Notre Dame Invitational – the first race of the season for both runners.Although Smyth and Benninger are considered the top runners for the Irish, Notre Dame’s most successful athlete so far this season has been sophomore Jake Watson. Watson has been consistent in his two races this season, finishing second in the NCC while finishing 21st against the strong competition at the Notre Dame Invitational.On the other hand, the Irish women have struggled recently to perform up to their expectations.After tying then-No. 18 Marquette for first at the NCC, the Irish finished a disappointing 12th out of 19 teams at the Notre Dame Invite. The Irish runners were also completely unable to stay in a pack as they had practiced, instead spreading out throughout the runners and falling behind early.”Our team was disappointing at the ND Invite. We felt we could do a better job representing Notre Dame,” junior Sunni Olding said. Much of the focus in the last two weeks of practice for the women’s team has been correcting this inability to run together. “We’ve worked really hard this week in practice,” Olding said. “We’ve really worked hard on running together better as a team and running in a group.”The team will need to put this practice into effect if they want to prepare for the post season, which begins in two weeks with the Big East Championship in Boston. “We are hoping for a much better performance this week,” Olding said. “We have prepared to race well and use this as our opportunity to get ready for postseason races.”Olding believes her team will be able to step up their game this weekend and rebound from the tough loss two weeks ago.”We want to show we have what it takes to do well in cross country,” she said. “We are going to go and run our hearts out.”