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ND Cross Country: Irish finish sixth at Big East championships

Aaron Sant-Miller | Sunday, October 30, 2011

In a competitive field, both the Notre Dame men’s and women’s teams cruised to a sixth-place finish sat the 2011 Big East championships.

The No. 29 Irish men’s squad was led by sophomore Martin Grady, who finished 10th in the eight-kilometer race with a time of 23:52.2. Notre Dame junior Jeremy Rae finished hot on his heels in 12th with a time of 23:55.4. Both runners earned all-Big East honors for their strong showing.

Junior J.P. Malette and seniors Jordan Carlson and Kelly Lynch also contributed to the scoring, finishing in less than 25 minutes. 

“We had a really good week of training [over fall break],” Rae said. “We were all feeling pretty confident. We had three solid workouts.”

Yet as a team, there was a certain amount of disappointment. 

“We wanted to get more than two of us in the top 15,” Rae continued. “We were shooting for at least three or four up there.”

The individual performances of both Rae and Grady were particularly noteworthy, as the top finishes marked the second and third time Irish runners placed all-Big East honors in the last two seasons. Last year, former Irish runner Dan Jackson placed 12th in the Big East championships.

Overall, Cincinnati senior Eric Finan won the race with a time of 23:17.7, but as a team, the Bearcats faltered to an eighth place finish in the 14-team field. Villanova had a very strong team showing, earning top finishes in both the men’s and women’s races. Villanova placed six runners in the top 15 in the men’s race. 

“It was pretty incredible and definitely is something we want to shoot for as a team in the future,” Rae said.

The Irish women had a strong team showing, with five runners contributing to team scoring. Junior Jessica Rydberg placed 18th, whiles sophomores Alexa Aragon and Kelly Curran, freshman Gabby Gonzales and senior Rachel Velarde all finished in the top 35.

But again Villanova took home the medals, placing three runners in the top 15, including seniors Sheila Reid and Bogdana Mimic, who finished in first and second with times of 19:40.9 and 19:51.2, respectively.

“You look at the results and we were only sixth, but I think we ran about as well as we could,” Irish coach Tim Connelly said. “That was probably our best performance one through seven all year.

“They executed a really good race. We set up a race plan on how we wanted to race, and this was probably the first time, especially the young ones, really came out and said, ‘This is what we need to do to run well.’ They competed really well.”

Despite the solid finish, Connelly said both teams are committed to continued improvement and better finishes.

“All the athletes really felt like this was a step in the right direction,” Connelly said. “I don’t think it’s unrealistic to make it a goal to be in the top-two of the regional meet. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a realistic thing.”

Two weeks from now the Irish will try just that, as both teams travel to Toledo, Ohio, for the Great Lakes Regional competition.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu