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Rivals to meet at ND Invitational

Matthew DeFranks | Friday, September 30, 2011

Fresh off two victories in the National Catholic Championships, the Irish men’s and women’s squads will compete against some of the top squads in the country at the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday.

The 56th annual race will feature 21 ranked teams and four varsity races, split into the Gold and Blue divisions.

“I think the team as a whole is very confident right now heading into this next race,” Irish senior captain Jordan Carlson said. “We had a lot of guys run solid races, and with the addition of a few more in this upcoming meet, we should look to do very well.”

The men’s Blue five-mile race will consist of eight ranked schools. No. 3 Stanford, No. 10 Florida State, No. 12 Princeton, No. 14 Brigham Young, No. 21 New Mexico, No. 23 Notre Dame, No. 25 Ohio State and No. 26 Eastern Kentucky. This meet will mark the first time the Irish have faced this level of competition this year.

“Something we can work on is definitely being more of a team,” Carlson said. “Not that we aren’t right now, but I think that is something that can always use work because you can’t have a nationally competitive team if it’s just a group of individuals.”

Junior Jeremy Rae and senior Johnathan Shawel are both listed on the Irish roster for the race. Neither has seen action so far, but both are two of Notre Dame’s top runners. Also listed are sophomores Martin Grady and Walter Schafer, along with Carlson. Grady and Schafer both finished in the top five during the National Catholic Championships.

“Martin Grady and Walter Schafer are two guys that have been real solid for us so far,” Carlson said. “[Senior] Kelly Lynch is another guy who has made huge strides and will definitely have a strong impact on the team this year.”

Carlson believes the meet will give the Irish a fair gauge of how they measure up to top teams.

“This is one of the most competitive races we run outside of nationals,” Carlson said. “There are a lot of ranked teams, which will give us a good chance to test our strength against theirs.”

On the women’s side, the Irish welcome six ranked foes to campus for the Blue 5-kilometer race. Highlighting the competition are No. 2 New Mexico, No. 7 Florida State, No. 18 Arkansas, No. 22 Princeton, No. 28 Penn State and No. 29 Brigham Young.

“This is our first major competition of the season. All of the meets from this Friday onward will be very competitive,” senior captain Rachel Velarde said. “ND Invite has traditionally brought a lot of top-ranked schools to race on our course. This year is no different, but we are ready to compete against these teams.”

Junior Jessica Rydberg was spectacular in her last outing, winning the National Catholic Championships with a 17:16 finish. She will try to duplicate that success Friday.

Sophomore Alexa Aragon and senior Molly Hirt also return to anchor the Irish.

“I think we have a lot of talent and hard work on this team, and if we can show that during a race, I have no doubt that we will be a very successful team,” Velarde said. “We have been working on keeping together during workouts and not [letting] people fall off, and we need to continue doing that, especially during the race.”

The Gold division races begin at 2 p.m. while the Blue division competition starts at 4:15 p.m., both at the Notre Dame Cross Country Course.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu