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ND Women’s Cross Country: Rydberg leads team by example

Laura Coletti | Thursday, October 6, 2011

Junior Jessica Rydberg earned the Big East Cross Country Athlete of the Week distinction after winning the 5K at the National Catholic Championships on Sept. 16. She became the ninth consecutive Notre Dame women’s runner to win the meet and, with a time of 17:16, the third-fastest mark in meet history. Rydberg has also contributed in other major ways to the Irish squad this season, including placing second in the season-opening Crusader Invitational at Valparaiso.

As much success as she’s experienced thus far this year, it has not been an easy road for Rydberg. She missed all of last season due to an injury to her lower back.

“It was a result of my body not being able to handle the mileage I was running,” Rydberg said. “It was disappointing not to be able to race. It was heartbreaking to watch my team work out and race and not be able to be with them, doing what I love.”

In spite of not being able to participate in races, Rydberg said she made her presence known in other ways.

“I did my best to encourage the other girls and support them as best I could,” she said.

Now that she’s healthy, Rydberg is continuing to support her team but has also taken on a greater role. Along with winning the National Catholic Championship and placing second in the Crusader Invitational, Rydberg led the Irish in the 56th annual Notre Dame Invitational, placing 25th out of 225 runners. It was the third consecutive meet she had set the pace for her squad. In a team setting, Rydberg says she’s trying to lead by example.

“I would like to think that I’m a good example of hard work and dedication, and that I am able to provide advice to the younger girls,” she said.

If Rydberg continues to stay healthy and run well, she should have no trouble reaching the goals she set for herself this season.

“One of my primary goals is to stay healthy, mentally and physically,” she said. “It’s difficult to race year-round and burnout is pretty common, so I want to avoid that. I think it’s possible for me to be an All-American in cross country, so that is my ultimate goal for this season. In the shorter term, I’m working hard to be the best leader for our team so that we can all perform to our highest potential.”

Rydberg and the Irish will next race in the Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 14.