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ND Cross Country: Irish squads aim to defend title

Tim Singler | Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Irish hope to start their season at a fast pace as they defend their title at the Crusader Open at Sunset Farm Hills in Valparaiso, Ind.

Both the Irish men’s and women’s teams claimed the title at last year’s Crusader Open and also claimed individual titles as well.

Senior Spencer Carter won the men’s individual title at the Open last season, running the race in 19:16, and junior Kelly Lynch and senior Mat Abernethy finished second and third, respectively. All three will shoot for another strong showing and try to sweep the top spots.

With the men’s team holding high hopes of a strong start to the season, the Irish women’s team also has set the bar high.

Both teams will be competing at the Crusader Open, and typically use the first meet of the season as an ‘experience meet.’

“Runners that need experience in order to improve will compete,” Irish women’s coach Tim Connelly said. “This meet helps to get experience.”

Connelly said early exposure to the races could be especially helpful for some runners, and that freshmen would get the chance to see if they are ready to race at the collegiate level.

However, the freshmen won’t be the only ones gaining experience this weekend. Three juniors will be trying to show that they are among the top on the Irish squad.

Connelly said juniors Kari Johnson, Susanna Sullivan and Molly Hirt are close to joining the Irish elite and will be expected to show that they are ready to run well in the upcoming season.

“They are pretty close to being our top runners,” Connelly said. “They just need to make that jump.”

They will get their opportunity to make that jump when the Valparaiso Crusader Open kicks off on Friday.