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Irish off to Big East Championships

Joe Meixell | Thursday, October 30, 2008

The men’s and women’s cross country teams look to repeat past glory today in the same city where a former Irish star will be commemorated this weekend.

Notre Dame will compete in the Big East Championships this morning at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City. The last time the league championships were held there, in 2005, the Irish swept both races.

Many past Irish runners will gather in New York this weekend to honor former Notre Dame cross country standout Ryan Shay, who died Nov. 4, 2007 in New York City while competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Former teammates of the nine-time All-American will run in the New York City Marathon Sunday in his honor, wearing gold and blue Notre Dame uniforms.

The Staten Island Alumni Club will also host a mass for Shay on Saturday night.

Irish coach Joe Piane, Shay’s coach from 1997-2002, said he spoke to Shay’s father about the events, but that neither he nor the team will be staying.

“A lot of that was organized by the guys themselves,” he said. “It’s a very emotional thing.”

As for the races Piane said an outcome similar to 2005 would be nice, but that the competition is tough.

“You’ve got Georgetown, Villanova, Syracuse. There’s a minimum of five really strong teams,” he said. “If you do well against these teams it’s going to help you immensely.”

The men finished fourth of 14 teams in 2007, and the women finished sixth of 16 teams.

Both teams will look to their most consistent runners to set the pace once again. For the women, junior Lindsay Ferguson has finished first among the Irish in three of their four races. Sophomore Marissa Treece finished ahead of Ferguson once and second to her in the rest of the contests.

Ferguson said the two enjoy training together and have helped each other improve this season.

For the men, senior Patrick Smyth has led Notre Dame in the two races in which he has competed, including a fourth place finish in the Pre-NCAA meet on Oct. 18.

Piane said his team did not get much time to rest over fall break, as Notre Dame needs to do well to have a shot at making the NCAA meet.

“They trained really hard over break,” he said. “How do you get to nationals if you’re not in the top two of your region?”

The women’s 6K race begins at 10:30 a.m., and the men’s 8K contest follows at 11:10 a.m.