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Men’s Cross Country: Senior Rae excited to lead

Aaron Sant-Miller | Monday, August 27, 2012

For many athletes, winning a national title would satisfy that underlying drive to achieve greatness. For senior All-American Jeremy Rae, a title only further fueled the fire. Last winter, Rae was one of the four members on Notre Dame’s 4,000-meter distance medley team. Running with current seniors Randall Babb, Johnathan Shawel and sophomore Chris Giesting, Rae claimed a national title for the Irish.

“When I crossed the line at the national championship, I was super, super excited,” Rae said. “But, like 10 minutes after that, I started thinking about how much greater it will feel if I ever cross the finish line first in an individual race, just knowing I did it completely myself.”

This is a task Rae will look to achieve this fall. Rae, a political science major, didn’t stray far from campus this summer. While juggling summer classes and a job at the Notre Dame cross country camp, Rae put in a great deal of extra work.

“Most summers I hardly run at all,” Rae said. “This summer I did a lot of training; I was putting in 80 mile weeks.”

Much of his motivation and drive comes from the new responsibilities that fall on his shoulders as one of three seniors on the team.

“I do have a lot more responsibility this year being a senior and I think that was also part of the reason I had to train a lot harder this summer,” Rae said. “I don’t shy away from trying to be a leader or anything like that. I just use the added pressure as motivation to train that much harder to ensure I can lead by example for the younger guys.”

Most seniors on a collegiate team can turn to their classmates for help in providing mentorship for underclassmen. Yet, Rae is presented with the tough situation of being one of only three seniors on this year’s team.

“If one of us isn’t working hard, it only leaves only two of us to pick up the slack,” Rae said. “So with the three of us seniors, we all live together and we all get on each other to work hard and set a good example.”

According to Rae, he has a unified team to lead – and that team unity has led to hard work and devotion on the part of the other runners.

“I don’t think the team has ever been this close in my four seasons here,” Rae said. “There are a bunch of us right around the same talent level and we’ve been pushing each other and working really hard together. Finally, for the most part, we’re very healthy. So, we’re very excited about this season.”

For Rae, team-first mentality is not a foreign concept. On the last leg of the race, when the race is at its hardest, Rae’s mind turns to his teammates.

“I’ve always told by my coaches that if I beat two guys at the line, that could mean two places in the team scoring,” Rae said. “When I’m trying to push through at the end, I’m thinking about my teammates and scoring points for us. I’m always thinking about my teammates.”

Rae willingly acknowledges that it was thanks to his teammates that he found success in the distance medley and was able to bring home a national title. So it works both ways.

“Those guys, they helped me a lot,” Rae said. “I ran only one of the four of the legs. I just happened to cross the finish line first.”

Yet this fall, Rae won’t be running just one leg of the race. The whole race will be in Rae’s hands. For this Irish runner, complete ownership is a well-relished aspect.

“I don’t mean to downplay [the national title] at all, but I’d just love to do it all myself, knowing I did all the work myself,” Rae said. “So, yeah, that national championship trophy sits at my desk at home, but I’d also like an individual one sitting right next to it. So, that’s what I’m working for now.”

With an already established and impressive resume, Rae has become one of the more prolific runners at Notre Dame. He is a part of the only relay team to ever win a national title in Notre Dame’s history and can claim ownership to one of only three indoor track and field national titles in school history. He is an All-American with four Big East championships under his belt from various seasons. Yet, things continue to shine upward for this Irish athlete, as he looks to set new records and claim new titles this fall.

“Last year, we were 24th at nationals and we had a bunch of guys that were injured and didn’t run,” Rae said. “This year, with us all healthy, we can do really great things.”

Rae’s first run of the season will be Aug. 31 at the Crusader Invitational in Valparaiso, Ind.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu