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ND Cross Country: Both squads look for a win at conference meet

Laura Coletti | Friday, October 28, 2011

The Irish travel to Louisville this weekend to participate in the Big East championships at E.P. Sawyer State Park. Both the men’s and women’s squads expect to face a challenging field of competition.

The men’s squad opens the day with an 8-kilometer race. Among the men’s field are two teams ranked in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Association (USTFCCCA) poll top 25 in No. 14 Providence and No. 16 Villanova. Other teams include Louisville and Georgetown, which are also currently receiving national votes, and Syracuse, which has been ranked during the season.

Senior captain Jordan Carlson is very confident in his team’s ability to place well.

“We haven’t won this meet in quite a while, and I think it’s the best opportunity we’ve had in a long time,” he said. “We are very deep as a team this year, so a lot of guys can do well at this meet. Our goal is to win, and we have a very good chance of doing that if we have a good day.”

In the men’s previous two races, the team has placed 11th and 19th, respectively. Between the Notre Dame Invitational and last week’s Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, the squad has defeated six ranked teams.

Rachel Velarde, the women’s squad’s senior captain, said the team has put in a lot of hard work in preparation for this meet.

“Our team has been working very hard the past couple of weeks for this race,” she said. “Fall break gave us the opportunity to work really hard as a team and grow closer.”

When the women’s team takes the course to run the 6-kilometer race, it faces what is arguably a more competitive field, with seven teams ranked in the USTFCCCA national top 30, including four ranked in the top 10. The No. 23 Irish face off against No. 4 Villanova, No. 6 Georgetown, No. 7 Providence, No. 18 West Virginia and No. 28 Connecticut.

Velarde remains confident in Notre Dame’s ability to take on the fierce competition.

“Our goal is [to finish in] the top four,” she said. “It will be hard, but I have confidence in our team that we can do well. There are bragging rights for the conference title. It is also a very good opportunity for us to beat some highly ranked teams and get some at-large points for Nationals.”

Velarde, Carlson and the rest of the Irish runners will hit the course Saturday. The men’s race takes place at 11 a.m., while the women’s contest begins at 11:50 a.m.

Contact Laura Coletti at lcoletti@nd.edu