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ND Cross Country: Runners compete for NCAA berth

Molly Sammon | Friday, November 13, 2009

The Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country seasons are getting down to the wire as they travel to the University of Indiana in Bloomington Saturday for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet with hopes of qualifying for the NCAA championships.

“Our team has been working incredibly hard this entire season,” sophomore runner Rachel Velarde said. “We are all ready to go out there and prove that we deserve to be at nationals. We all know what we have to do this weekend, and we are all excited to go out and race our best.”

To qualify for the national event, the team as a whole needs to finish in the top two finishers, or they have to run comparatively better than the other third or fourth place teams in other regional competitions around the country for the chance of receiving a bid to continue their season at the national meet.

“It does not matter what you run like in the beginning of the season,” men’s coach Joe Piane said. “Without doing well at this meet, there is no chance of getting to the national meet.”

In their last meet, the men’s team finished sixth out of 14 teams, and the women placed sixth out of 16 total teams at the Big East Conference meet. Though these results seem to suggest that the Irish will have a difficult time qualifying for the NCAA national meet, the Big East boasts one of the toughest conferences for cross country this season, and many of those teams who beat the Irish in the conference event will be competing in a different regional this weekend.

The Irish have had two weeks off to prepare themselves physically and mentally for the challenge that Saturday presents.

“We have been working on a little bit of speed work,” Piane said. “At this point in the season, you have to be working on speed work.”

Top runners to watch for the men include senior Jake Walker, juniors Dan Jackson and Ryan Jacobs and sophomore Jonathan Shawel. On the women’s side, the runners who are projected to be the first to cross the finish line for the Irish are senior Lindsay Ferguson, followed closely by senior Beth Tacl, Velarde and one of the newest members of the team, freshman Jessica Rydberg.