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ND Cross Country: Rydberg makes debut appearance at NCAAs

Molly Sammon | Thursday, November 19, 2009

A new face will be among the crowd at the women’s NCAA championship cross country meet in Terre Haute, Ind. this weekend as freshman Jessica Rydberg takes the course for the Irish.

“It is so exciting to be able to race with the best runners in the entire nation,” Rydberg said. “I am not too nervous yet, but I am sure when I get to the meet and see all of the other teams, I will become much more nervous.”

Rydberg came in second place for the Irish and 10th overall in 21:23.84 at the Great Lakes Regional meet where Notre Dame won for the first time since 2003 and Rydberg received all-region honors.

“Starting college is a tough transition for a freshman, especially an athlete who is expected to contribute right away, and she had some struggles early like most freshmen do,” Irish coach Tim Connelly said. “She seems to be handling things well now and comes to practice every day, happy, and excited to be running.”

Rydberg knew she wanted to run in college and looked into possibly attending Duke, Xavier or Santa Clara University, but as a science pre-professional and theology double major intent, she ultimately chose Notre Dame with some urging from her high school track coach.

“I feel like Notre Dame has the perfect combination of rigorous academics, successful athletics and service opportunities, and everything is supported by a strong faith in God,” Rydberg said.

As an athlete who participates in a highly individual sport like cross country, Rydberg maintains a healthy level of team sportsmanship and humility in her personality as she races for optimal team performance.

“I did not really put pressure on myself to be in the top runners; I just wanted to do my best for the team,” Rydberg said.

Rydberg has been running competitively since middle school with the encouragement of her parents who are both runners as well.

“Running is refreshing, it allows me to take a break from everything that usually makes me stressed, and at the same time, it is also an exciting challenge,” Rydberg said. “I get to find out how strong I can really be, and there is always an opportunity to become faster, stronger, and better.”

Rydberg and the rest of the Irish will be vying to show they are faster, stronger and better than the rest of the competitors Nov. 23 as the team races towards its first national title.