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ND Cross Country: ND finishes season 23rd at NCAAs

Molly Sammon | Monday, November 23, 2009

The 2009 cross country season ended Monday at the NCAA National meet as the Irish women’s team and senior Jake Walker from the men’s team competed against the fastest runners in collegiate cross country.

“The team did well today, and we finished about where we were predicted to,” freshman Jessica Rydberg said. “It was a fast race with a lot of competition and I think everyone stepped up to the challenge.”

The seven women from Notre Dame competed as a team at Indiana State University’s home course and finished in 23rd place overall with 519 points, an improvement by six spots from their overall performance in last year’s national meet.

“We didn’t get out well and got stuck early on,” Irish coach Tim Connelly said. “We didn’t run poorly, but we didn’t run as well as I’d hoped we would run.”
Senior Lindsey Ferguson led the team, finishing 35th overall in 20:43. As a top 40 finisher, Ferguson earned All-American status, a goal she had been working towards since she began running at Notre Dame.

“[Ferguson] put herself up into the lead pack and just stayed there the whole race,” Connelly said. “It was familiar territory for her. She decided early in the year that she was going to be the leader for us, and that’s what she did.”

Following Ferguson was Rydberg (21:04) in 54th place as the seventh freshman in the country, junior Marissa Treece (21:43) in 129th place, sophomore Rachel Velarde (21:44) in 130th place, freshman Rebecca Tracy (22:16) in 176th place, sophomore Kari Johnson (22:46) in 195th place and junior Erica Watson (22:47) in 196th place.

Despite the men’s team not qualifying from the NCAA Regional competition, Walker made the cut to compete in Monday’s national meet as in individual to represent Notre Dame. Walker came in 129th place overall in 31:12.50.

Though the 2009 cross country season is over, the teams will both begin training soon to prepare themselves for potentially making it to next year’s NCAA Championship meet, but the necessary physical recovery is crucial.

“These kids never quit as they go from cross country to indoor track in January,” Connelly said. “Right now, what we need to do is make sure that they’re recovering from the season.”

Both Connelly and men’s cross country coach Joe Piane said potential growth in ability from the younger members of each team will be crucial to next season.

“Our team is relatively young, so we will definitely be focused on training hard this winter and summer and putting in a lot of miles to get prepared for next cross country season,” Rydberg said.