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Club Sports: Irish secure second straight conference championship

Special to the Observer | Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This past weekend, the top athletes in the Midwestern Collegiate Cycling Conference descended upon South Bend for the regional conference championships. Nearly 200 cyclists rolled up to compete for coveted spots at the Collegiate National Championships in Ogden, Utah. Looking to cement its second consecutive conference championship, Notre Dame brought nearly 20 riders to build on the lead it had accumulated all season. The team time trial was the first event of the weekend. While also organizing the race, the Irish turned in several solid performances. Both the Men’s D and Men’s C units earned wins and spots as conference champions, while the Men’s B squad earned 2nd place and Men’s A snagged important points with fifth place.

After a quick turnaround, the road race followed the opening event. The teams raced laps of a 15-mile course in rolling terrain south of downtown South Bend, and the races featured flurries of attacks and fast finishing sprints. In Men’s D, junior Phil Palmon was the top finisher for the Irish in fifth position. Next, sophomore Carolyn McCann fought hard for seventh place in the Women’s B/C field. Junior Josh Corcoran continued the strong efforts from the Irish on the day with a fifth-place finish in the Men’s C field, and in Men’s B three Notre Dame athletes placed in the top-10 with Junior Brian Hurley at second, Sophomore Luke Tilmans in fifth and Freshman Jim Snitzer at 9th. Finally, in the ultra-competitive Men’s A field, all six Notre Dame men finished in the main field, with points coming from graduate student Doug Ansel in 13th and Freshman John Pratt in 17th.

Sunday all eyes turned to the final race of the regular season in downtown South Bend. Crowds lined the streets all day to view the fast-paced action of criterium racing. In the first race of the day, Irish sophomore August Kunkel captured another win for Notre Dame in the men’s D sprint. In Women’s B, McCann repeated her solid performance from the day before, earning another seventh-place finish in Women’s B/C. Another great effort came form the Men’s C riders with Corcoran earning a podium position with third, and top-10 finishes from junior David Pratt and freshman Mike Chifala, who finished sixth and seventh, respectively. In Men’s B Tilmans was the top finisher in fourth place. Finally, in Men’s A, Irish junior Joe Magro, who was leading the conference points standing for Division II, fought his way into the winning break-away and held on to earn seventh place, while John Pratt held on in the field for 14th.

The weekend performances from the Irish secured their back-to-back conference championship, and Magro and John Pratt finished first and second in the overall Division II individual standings. In two weeks, Magro, Pratt, graduate student Andrew O’Donnell and senior Nate Lee will represent the Irish at the national championships.

Men’s Rowing

Notre Dame traveled down to Oak Ridge, Tenn., this weekend for the SIRA regatta against some of the top competition from across the country, including both club and varsity programs. The Irish achieved the best results in club history, but failed to meet their own expectations, Irish coaches and rowers said.

Racing opened on Saturday with the Novice 4 and Novice 8 advancing out of their heats to the semifinals. The JV 8 then placed fourth in its heat to earn a spot in the petite finals. Up next were the Varsity 4 and 8, with both boats advancing to the semifinals, as the Varsity 8 placed second to eventual champions George Washington. In their second races of the day, the Irish Novice 4, Novice 8 and Varsity 8 all advanced out of their semifinals to earn places in the Grand Finals on Sunday, while the Varsity 4 placed fifth in its semifinal for a spot in the C final.

In its semifinal, the Varsity 8 defeated varsity programs from Jacksonville and Oklahoma City, but fell to Florida Tech. Saturday racing concluded with dinner with recent Notre Dame alumni in town to watch the racing.

Sunday racing opened early with the Varsity 4 taking second in the C final in a very tight race that saw the top-5 crews finish within four seconds of each other. The Novice 4 then took sixth place, followed by the second novice 8, which took fourth in its finals event after heats were cancelled on Saturday due to a late scratch. The Novice 8 then took fourth as well in a very tight race, as the Irish were passed at the last second by Virginia, missing a medal by only seven tenths of a second.

The JV 8 was up next, taking second in the petite final to St. Joseph’s, a varsity program from Philadelphia. Racing concluded as the Varsity 8 raced to a sixth-place finish, missing a medal for third place by two seconds, behind club rivals Grand Valley State and Virginia, and varsity programs from George Washington, Florida Tech and Temple.

The team returns to action next weekend in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the MACRA regatta, where the Irish will face strong programs in Michigan, Michigan State, Grand Valley State, and Purdue.