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ND CROSS-COUNTRY: Teams to compete at Catholic race

Laura Myers | Friday, September 19, 2008

It’s fitting that the Notre Dame cross-country team historically dominated an event its coach created.

The men’s and women’s cross-country teams will run at home today in the National Catholic Championships, which head coach Joe Piane started in 1980.

“It was a nice concept, all the Catholic teams competing,” Piane said.

The Irish men have won 19 of the 28 runnings, including 17 of the past 20. The women have won 16 of the last 20, and both took the title in 2007.

Piane said only one of the seven runners who ran last year will be competing in the race, but that does not worry him.

“I think we’re real prepared,” he said. “We have a bunch of young guys and it should be an exciting meet for us.”

The women’s team will be going with experience, running only two freshmen, women’s head coach Tim Connelly said.

Included in the lineup for the women are sophomore Marissa Treece and junior Lindsey Ferguson, who took first and fourth, respectively, at this event last year. Treece also finished first of 61 runners at the Valparaiso Invitational two weeks ago, while Ferguson finished second.

“[Treece] is training really well. I expect her and [Ferguson] to run well on Friday,” Connelly said.

Both teams go into the race with added pressure because they were ranked in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll.

The USTFCCCA ranked the Irish men No. 20 in the nation, out of about 320 teams. The men were also ranked third in the Great Lakes Region, behind Michigan and Wisconsin. The women were ranked No. 4 in the region, behind Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

“It’s flattering that people think we’re that good,” Piane said. “But preseason rankings are based more on history than quality.”

Piane said the team would need to prove it deserved the ranking.

Connelly agreed, saying only the top two teams in the region are guaranteed bids to the NCAA championships.

“It’s all guessing and speculation at this point,” he said. “I think it’s a realistic picture of where we are. We will have further to go.”

Both teams can start to prove themselves today at 3:30.