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ND Cross Country: Irish win 9th straight Catholic Championship

Matthew DeFranks | Monday, September 19, 2011


The Irish continued their perennial dominance of the National Catholic Championships by notching a pair of victories over the weekend.

“This race was definitely a step in the right direction for our team. We had improvements from everyone that raced two weeks ago,” Irish senior Rachel Velarde said. “It was nice seeing everyone work so well together, and it produced good results.”

For the ninth straight year, a Notre Dame women’s runner topped the leaderboard as junior Jessica Rydberg finished first, running the five-kilometer course in just 17:16. 

Rydberg’s mark was the fastest time since 1999 and the third swiftest in the meet’s history. 

Sophomore Alexa Aragon finished third, while senior Molly Hirt placed fifth, helping the Irish take six of the top nine spots.

“This race was more competitive than two weeks ago, but not as competitive as ND [Invitational],” Velarde said. “It is nice for the freshman to see the course and get a feel for it before ND Invite, where the big time racing happens.”

Irish freshmen Emily Frydrych and Gabby Gonzales finished 11th and 27th in their home debuts, respectively.

“This race was a good stepping stone for the race in two weeks,” Velarde said. “I think we can work on bettering our pack time, and that can start by trying to close gaps during workouts.”

Notre Dame (22 points) finished well ahead of second place Dayton (61 points), while Saint Louis University (117 points) was a distant third.

The men’s squad had a successful weekend as well, beating the competition for the 20th time in the last 24 years.

“We had the goal in mind to win by quite a bit, and we did just that,” senior Jordan Carlson said. “There is a lot we can work on, but this was a very strong start.”

Sophomore Martin Grady finished 20 seconds off the lead, placing second behind DePaul’s Matthew Graham. Grady’s finish paced the Irish, who placed six runners among the top ten.

“We can still finish stronger as a team,” Carlson said. “It’s important for us to work together throughout the race, and I think that’s one thing we can really improve on.”

Senior Kelly Lynch and sophomores Walter Schafer, DJ Thornton and Patrick Lesiewicz all finished the five-mile race in under 25 minutes, while senior Joe Miller clocked in at 25:02.

“We were expecting to win, but at the same time we take this race very seriously and look at it as a great opportunity to shake the rust off before some of our more competitive meets,” Carlson said.

Marquette, who defeated the Irish at the Crusader Invitational just two weeks ago, finished second, and Dayton took third place. Notre Dame scored 28 points to the Eagles’ 88 and the Flyers’ 118.

“We should look at this as race as a great indication of our potential,” Carlson said. “We ran well, but we can do a whole lot better, so it will be exciting to watch us put it all together in two weeks.”

The Irish are back in action Sept. 30 when they host the Notre Dame Invitational.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu