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ND Cross Country: Tough competition awaits Irish

Chris Doyen | Friday, October 12, 2007

Notre Dame travels Saturday to Indiana State for the Pre-National, the last meet before the postseason begins. The meet will mark the first time the men and women have had to venture off-campus since the Crusader Invitational at Valparaiso on Sept. 7.

The Pre-National meet lives up to its name. It sports a field that includes nearly all championship hopefuls and is run on the same course that will host the NCAA Championships.

“That’s one of the reasons they have this meet,” men’s head coach Joe Piane said. “It gives teams the opportunity to race once on the course before the national meet. They have been holding this tournament at the site of the national meet for decades.”

The men’s team has won its first three meets, including an impressive showing against a stacked field in the Notre Dame Invitational. That performance earned the Irish the No. 7 ranking in the USTFCCA national poll.

But the opposition doesn’t get any easier for the Irish this weekend in Terre Haute. Nine of the top-10 teams in the nation – and 27 of the top 30 – will be in the field. Piane will enter the top seven finishers from the Notre Dame Invitational in the varsity race. Those include senior Jake Watson, junior Patrick Smyth and sophomore Jake Walker.

“I would like to think that Patrick Smyth and Jake Watson will come up big for us again,” Piane said. “Jake Walker has also been training really hard and should make an impact.”

Smyth, Watson, freshman Dan Jackson and Walker finished second, No. 10, No. 16 and No. 30 against the stiff competition at the Notre Dame Invitational. Freshman Paul Springer and seniors Brett Adams and Mike Popejoy will round out the varsity lineup for the Irish this weekend.

The women won their first two meets of the season and entered the USTFCCA poll at No. 27, but they relinquished that ranking after finishing 12th in the Notre Dame Invitational.

Like the men, the Irish women will face their toughest test of the season. Nine of the top-10 teams in the nation will run, giving the women an opportunity to put themselves in position to receive an at-large bid for the NCAA Championships.

Freshman Marissa Treece, who has paced the Irish in the last two meets, will try to lead the way, along with sophomore Lindsey Ferguson, who finished only 14 seconds behind Treece at the Notre Dame Invitational.