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ND Cross Country: First place finish gives team pass to NCAAs

Molly Sammon | Monday, November 16, 2009

A first place finish at Saturday’s Great Lakes Regional cross country meet has earned the Irish women’s team an automatic team bid to NCAA nationals, but the men’s seventh place finish ends the season for the team. However, senior Jake Walker earned the ability to compete individually.

“It was by far the best race we have had all year, and I was very pleased with that,” women’s coach Tim Connelly said.

Five of the top 40 finishers in the women’s competition were wearing the blue and gold of Notre Dame at the Great Lakes regional at Indiana University’s comparatively difficult and hilly course in Bloomington, Ind. Senior Lindsey Ferguson (20:58.62) led the way for the Irish and finished third overall.

“Lindsey led the team to our victory,” sophomore Rachel Velarde said. “She has been an amazing leader for this team and has helped us through every race this year.”

Ferguson was closely followed by freshman Jessica Rydberg (21:23.84) in 10th place, Velarde (21:32.40) in 15th and juniors Marissa Treece in 30th and Erica Watson in 36th. Freshman Rebecca Tracy (22:44.84) and senior Beth Tacl (23:04.50) finished out the top seven starting team members whose 94 total points will allow them the opportunity to compete as a team at the NCAA nationals.

The season ended for the men on Saturday, as they were not able to qualify for the national meet next week.

“They ran more competitively in this race than they had in any other race this season,” men’s coach Joe Piane said. “I’m convinced that if they ran like that all season they would be going to the national meet.”

In the men’s division, Jake Walker (31:21.10) was the first runner from Notre Dame to cross the finish line.  His ninth place finish grants him the opportunity to compete as an individual and represent Notre Dame at the national meet.

Following Walker at Saturday’s competition were sophomore Joe Miller (32.04.11), junior Dan Jackson (32:10.75), sophomore Jordan Carlson (32:34.90), sophomore Jonathan Shawel (32.46.31), junior Ryan Jacobs (32:57.92) and junior Paul Springer (34:16.88). All contributed to Notre Dame’s 207 total points.

“Our goal annually is to get to the NCAA national meet and we did not get that this year,” Piane said. “I think it is safe to say the season has been disappointing.”

Ferguson, Rydberg, Velarde and Walker were all given the honor of receiving all-region distinction based on their competitive performances.

The Notre Dame women’s cross country team and Jake Walker will compete in the NCAA national meet at Indiana State University’s course in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 23 in search of a national title.