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Cross Country: Rydberg paces Irish at adidas Invitational

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, October 26, 2011

With two different championship meets just around the corner, the Irish prepped by competing against 37 ranked teams in both the men’s and women’s fields at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.

The women’s team finished 15th, while the men’s squad placed 19th.

“Probably 20-plus teams at Wisconsin will be at the NCAA meet,” Irish women’s coach Tim Connelly said. “This was as close a regular season race to the NCAAs we will we ever see.

“For the fourth consecutive race, junior Jessica Rydberg led the Irish. She ran the six-kilometer course in 20:46.5, good enough for 36th place.

“She’s been big,” Connelly said of Rydberg. “We struggled last year without a front-runner. She’s getting more fit every week and gaining more confidence with each race.”

Senior Susanna Sullivan and sophomore Alexa Aragon followed Rydberg, placing 81st and 85th, respectively. Junior Rebecca Tracy and senior Rachel Velarde each finished the course in just over 21:30 as both scored for the Irish.

“I didn’t think that overall we had a great race,” Connelly said. “As a group, there was a pretty big gap between [our runners]. We didn’t do a good job of running together.”

Villanova senior Sheila Reid won the race, clocking in at 20:00.

Washington, which placed three runners in the top 25, won the race while Vanderbilt and Arizona rounded out the top three. Notre Dame did, however, top seven ranked teams ⎯ Providence, Minnesota, Florida, Iowa, Brigham Young, Princeton and Clemson.

As a result, the Irish moved up from No. 25 in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national poll to No. 23.

“Until we line up at the regional meet and earn a spot at the NCAAs, being ranked doesn’t mean a lot,” Connelly said. “Right now, rankings are just someone’s opinion.”

On the men’s side, junior Jeremy Rae paced the Irish, finishing the eight-kilometer race in 76th place with a time of 24:41. Sophomores Martin Grady and Walter Schafer and junior J.P. Malette also finished the race in less than 25 minutes.

“We raced a lot better than we did at [the Notre Dame Invitational],” Rae said. “We beat some ranked teams, which was good.”

Rae, an NCAA track All-American last year, ran in just his second race this year for the Irish, finishing the slightly shorter race 30 seconds faster than his debut.

“[My performance] was all right,” Rae said. “I’m coming along but, as a team, we’re still getting better.”

Arizona freshman Lawi Laland won the race, finishing in 23:10. Despite Lalang’s strong finish, the Wildcats placed 36th. Wisconsin finished first while Brigham Young, who won the Notre Dame Invitational, and Stanford also placed in the top three.

“We’re not at that level yet to be competing with top-five teams,” Rae said. “Our main goal right now is to place well at the Big East [championships].”

Notre Dame defeated ranked teams Georgetown, Syracuse, New Mexico and North Carolina in the race. The Irish reentered the USTFCCCA national rankings at No. 29.

The Irish return to the course for the Big East championships Saturday.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu