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Cross Country: Coach handles logistics of Invitational

Vicky Jacobsen | Tuesday, September 25, 2012

He’s a meet official. He’s processed all the race entries. He’s painted the trail the runners will follow, and he’ll be keeping an eye on the official timer. If that wasn’t enough, he’ll also be coaching the women’s cross country team.

The annual Notre Dame Invitational might be a highlight of the season and a great opportunity to compete at home, but for Irish coach Tim Connelly there’s no doubt that hitting the road would mean less work for him, as he does a majority of the prep work ahead of big home meets.

“An outside timing guy actually does the timing,” Connelly said. “But in terms of setting up packets – each team has their numbers in it and the electronic timing chips – that’s stuff that we do, and it’s just very, very time consuming. And then setting up the course, and putting all those flags and stuff out there, that’s stuff that we do.”

Connelly said that do-it-yourself nature of hosting meets is part of what separates cross country from other sports.

“I think our sport is a little different from most in that we’re actually involved in putting on the event, whereas say a soccer game, someone else is going to line the field and do all that, and we’re actually doing all that,” Connelly said. “The first time we lined the cross country course I was the one out there pushing the paint sprayer.”

Although Connelly and men’s coach Joe Piane have overseen dozens of National Catholic Championships and Notre Dame Invitationals between them, Connelly said he’s always concerned about making it through the meet without any problems.

“You want to make sure that things are done right, and so you’re always worried about making sure the timing system’s working, and that there aren’t mistakes on the course,” Connelly said. “There’s definitely pressure to make sure that the event goes off right.”

The pressure of running a tight meet is heightened by the caliber of teams flying in to race.

“This is the 57th annual Notre Dame Invitational, so it’s been going on a long time. It’s one of the oldest continuous meets in the country,” Connelly said. “People decide this is a good opportunity for them. You look for meets where there’s going to be teams from other regions, and this has become one of those meets on a national scale, where teams from other regions will give people at-large points, assuming that you run well and been them.”

Connelly said the process of organizing entries began just as last track season ended.

“All the meet entry stuff, we sent that out during the summer, in June right after the NCAA Outdoor meet,” Connelly said. “We sent out entry information to all the teams that expressed interest, and then we have those teams confirm with us.”

One thing Connelly and Piane don’t have to worry about is the playing surface itself: the golf course on the west side of campus.

“Over the years we’ve been forced to change the course, because at one time that golf course was 18 holes, so where the new bookstore is and those [new dorms are],” Connelly said. “So when they started doing all that building we had to make all kinds of changes to the course. But the course that we’re running now we’ve probably run for the last 10 to 12 years. It’s been fairly consistent.”

That leaves one fewer item on Connelly’s to-do list.The Irish coaches will play host at the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday. The starting gun goes off at 2 p.m.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu