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ND Cross Country: Runners to start off season at Valpo Crusader Open

Molly Sammon | Friday, September 4, 2009

The 2009 season opens for both the Irish men’s and women’s cross country teams today as they travel to Sunset Hills Park in Valparaiso, Ind. for the Valparaiso Crusader Open.

In terms of competition, both teams are looking at Friday’s meet as one of the easiest that they will encounter this season and an excellent chance to place in first for a good boost to carry on through the duration of the season.

“This is a very low-key meet, and the only time we’re running a six-kilometer race,” men’s coach Joe Piane said. “We normally run an eight-kilometer race. It will give the guys a sense of confidence.”

Since the beginning of the summer, the runners have been preparing daily with the challenges of this season in mind.

“Our runners have been training since the end of the outdoor track season for the fall,” women’s coach Tim Connelly said. “So far, most of our work has been general conditioning work, with very little race-specific work to date. That will come later in the season.”

Both teams have been working hard at distance training and not focusing much on interval training. The coaches said that some of the members from each the men’s and women’s teams have been running 75 miles a week to prepare for this season.

Friday’s opening meet is a chance for both teams to use some of their less experienced runners in order for them to get a feel for how they will match up for the remainder of the season as it gets tougher and more competitive.

“The group that will compete are people who weren’t in the top seven last fall, but certainly have the potential to be contributors this year,” Connelly said. “I want to put these people in the position that they are being counted on as scorers and expected to carry the load, because we will need them to be comfortable in that role later in the year as the competition becomes more intense.”

Juniors Erica Watson and Theresa Cattuna, and sophomores Kari Johnson, Molly Hirt and Susanna Sullivan are all expected to stand out at Friday’s meet for the women’s team. Juniors Spencer Carter, and Ryan Gamboa, and sophomore Kelly Lynch are expected to be top names in the men’s division.

The women’s race begins at 6 p.m. today and the men will follow at 6:45 p.m.