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ND Cross Country: Men’s, women’s teams both capture first at Valparaiso

Molly Sammon | Monday, September 7, 2009

The Irish men’s and women’s teams both opened their season with impressive showings at Friday’s Valparaiso Crusader Open event, taking home first place on both sides.

“Overall, the team ran very well,” sophomore Thomas Noel said. “We went into the race knowing that we would be setting the pace and got all of our runners up front with in about the first four hundred meters.” 

Both Irish men’s coach Joseph Piane and women’s coach Tim Connelly used the season-opening meet to test out a few of each team’s inexperienced but promising runners who could turn into key contributors as the season progresses.

“The kids that we raced were people that we thought needed experience,” Connelly said. “I thought they stepped up and competed really well.”

In the men’s race, 10 of the first 11 finishers at Valparaiso’s Sunset Hills Park were wearing Irish blue and gold. Junior Spencer Carter (19:16), sophomore Kelly Lynch (19:20) and junior Mat Abernethy (19:22) took home the top three spots for Notre Dame, which totaled 15 points. Those efforts set the pace as the Irish outdistanced the University of Chicago, Valparaiso and Wisconsin Green-Bay.

The Irish women notched 26 points, beating Western Michigan, University of Chicago and Valparaiso handily. Juniors Theresa Cattuna (18:25) and Erica Watson (18:36) finished in the top two spots, and sophomore Kari Johnson (19:05) finished fifth.

“It really was a great team performance, but the real challenges will be later in the season as we meet some of the top teams in the country,” junior Spencer Carter said.

The team’s next event is the National Catholic Invitational on Sept. 18th at Notre Dame’s Burke Golf Course.