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ND Cross Country: Runners earn All-Region honors, look to NCAA Championship

Laura Coletti | Sunday, November 13, 2011

Five Irish runners collected All-Region honors at Saturday’s NCAA Great Lakes Regional race in Toledo, Ohio. The men’s squad placed fourth and garnered three of those accolades, while the women’s team finished fifth and had two runners earn the honor.

Despite finishing well enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, the women’s team was unhappy with its performance. The fifth-place finish fell short of what the team were hoping to achieve, senior captain Rachel Velarde said.

“We did not perform as we were hoping to on Saturday,” she said. “Our goal was a win or at least a top-two finish. Placing fifth does not reflect the hard work and ability that our team has put in this season.”

While the run might not have been what Velarde had hoped for, she said there are small things that can be fixed before they take the course at the NCAA Championships.

“We need to work on getting out better at the beginning of the race and staying engaged in the race,” Velarde said.

Notre Dame received strong performances from its All-Region honorees. Junior Jessica Rydberg placed 10th overall and freshman Gabby Gonzales finished 13th for the Irish.

“I was pleased with how Jessica and Gabby ran today,” Irish coach Tim Connelly said. “Both ran a strong race. Gabby has improved greatly over the last month and has really made a good contribution to the team.”

Velarde is quick to shake off Saturday’s lackluster performance and looks forward to running in the national championship meet.

“Our goal this year was not just make nationals, but to really show that we belong there and that we can place well,” she said. “I knew from the beginning of the season that we were capable of making nationals and placing well. There is so much talent and hard work on this team that nationals was only part of the goal. Now that we have made it to nationals, we still have one more goal to complete.”

By finishing fourth, the men’s squad also earned an at-large bid to the NCAA National Championships. They finished just 15 points shy of beating Michigan for third place while running a 10-kilometer race for the first time this season. Senior Jordan Carlson (15th place), junior Jeremy Rae (17th) and sophomore Martin Grady (20th) all garnered All-Region honors with their top-25 finishes.

Carlson, a captain, said that his team was pleased with their performance.

“We performed very well this past meet,” he said. “We have consistently gotten better with each race this season and this race was no different. If we continue to improve like we have been, then we should do very well at nationals.”

The captain knows his team’s work is not done though, and said his squad will do their best to perform well at nationals.

“We haven’t quite met all of our goals yet,” Carlson said. “We’ve made it to nationals but that was just the first step. We expect to do very well at nationals so we are looking forward to finally getting a chance to prove ourselves against the country’s best.”

Both Irish squads will run in the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21.

Contact Laura Coletti at lcoletti@nd.edu