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ND Cross Country: Talented freshmen add depth

Robert Graham | Thursday, August 26, 2010

With the start of the new academic year comes a new set of even higher expectations for a revamped Irish team. After placing 23rd at last year’s NCAA Championships, the squad is looking to get off the bus running.

Women’s coach Tim Connelly said he is hopeful that this year’s squad can make that happen.

“We graduated our top runner, but we still have numbers two through seven in place,” Connelly said. “We will look for them to have very strong seasons for us.”

Senior Erica Watson, junior Rachel Velarde and sophomore Rebecca Tracy will be key components in the squad’s overall success. Additionally, Connelly made a point not to overlook the very deep and talented group of freshmen that should contribute immediately to the progression of this year’s team.

Among some of the more notable incoming runners are Foot Locker High School Award finalist Meg Ryan, Illinois state champions Kelly Curran and McKinzie Shulz, and Montana state champion Alexa Aragon.

“It’s still too early to make any predictions, but a lot of our expected contributors have come in and are very fit,” Connelly said. “They’ve had good summers.”

He added that while nobody is quite “race ready,” he has a good idea of who has been training hard as the team goes through its general conditioning program this week.

With a mix of experience and new, incoming talent, Connelly said he thinks the Irish should have no problem improving upon where they left off last season.

“Our biggest goal is to get better,” Connelly said. “We should have no problem taking the rest from there.”