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ND Cross Country: Piane expresses confidence in Irish experience

Joe Wirth | Friday, August 31, 2012

The Irish may not be sending their entire squad to the Crusaders’ home turf in Valparaiso today, but the team expects the meet to set a positive tone for the season.

Even though the start of every season is filled with unknowns, men’s coach Joe Piane said he is confident his team can begin the year on the right foot. The team will open its season at the Crusader Invitation for the 10th consecutive season.

“The expectations are always to do well,” Piane said. “We are only sending eight guys [to the Crusader Invitational], but this really is a meet we expect to win.”

The men’s competition is a 6-kilometer event and provides an opportunity to give younger runners, especially freshmen, a taste of collegiate competition.

For the men’s team, freshmen John Riely and Josh O’Brien will be making their collegiate debut, while sophomores Kevin Byrne and Johnny Fuller will be competing in their inaugural meet for the Irish.

Freshmen Jessica Balko, Sydni Meunier and Abbey Murphy, along with sophomore Karen Lesiewicz, will be making their debuts for the women’s team.

“Honestly, the freshmen are probably not ready,” Piane said. “They have only been here for a couple of weeks, and I do not expect them to be 100 percent comfortable until midseason. Senior leadership plays a big part in making them more comfortable.

“Our biggest meets of the year, and the meets we really concentrate on, are the Big East [meets] and the NCAA [meets]. So as long as our younger runners are ready by then, we will be in good shape.”

The Irish will also be joined at the meet by men’s and women’s teams from Purdue, Purdue Calumet and Valparaiso.

Expectations are high for the Irish this year as both the men’s and women’s teams are ranked in the preseason top 25 for the first time since 2005. Both teams have their sights on a Big East Championship and potentially more. Their journey begins 6 p.m. begins Friday at 6 p.m. at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind.

Contact Joe Wirth at jwirth@nd.edu