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ND Cross Country: Irish teams take second to Purdue

Aaron Sant-Miller | Monday, September 3, 2012

Despite giving their best runners the weekend off, the Irish performed admirably Friday night in the Crusader Open against their opponents’ top athletes.

Both the men’s and women’s teams traveled to Sunset Hills Farm, where both Notre Dame teams claimed second at the meet. For both the men and the women, the Purdue runners brought home the victory, squeaking by the Irish by two and six team points respectively.

“It was a good weekend,” women’s coach Tim Connelly said. “You want to win every time out, but the kids who I hoped to see compete well did a really good job.”

Even though the Irish failed to claim first at the meet, Connelly said the race was very important and successfully got some younger and less experienced runners competition time.

“There is a huge difference between going out training, and lining up and actually racing,” Connelly said. “So, the people who raced on Friday were people who I thought really needed more experience.”

Even without their best runners in the lineup, Notre Dame turned in a strong team performance. The Irish men went on to claim eight of the top 14 spots, while the women claimed three of the top six, with two runners in the top three.

For the men, the Irish were led by senior Jeff MacMillan, who finished third with a time of 19:20.7. Juniors Patrick Lesiewicz and DJ Thornton finished close behind, claiming fourth and fifth respectively, with times of 19:25.8 and 19:32.6. For Thornton and Lesiewicz, this was their second straight year finishing in the top-five for this meet.

For the Irish women, junior Meg Ryan claimed second with a time of 17:48.3 and was only two seconds behind the winner, Purdue senior Samantha Walkow. Finishing third was Irish freshman Sydni Meunier with a time of 18:10.2 in her first ever cross-country race. Meunier was a track and field standout in high school but did not run cross-country while attending high school in Melvin, IL. Sophomore Katie Moran rounded out the top-six finishes for the Irish, claiming the sixth spot with a time of 18:20.9.

These younger and less experienced runners faced quite the challenge though, as Purdue raced their whole team.

“That was Purdue’s best team that competed,” men’s coach Joe Piane said. “They put everybody that they had on the line. Now, keep in mind, we’ll do significantly better when we run our better kids.”

Regardless of competing against more experienced opponents, Notre Dame’s runners were able compete well and impress the coaches Connelly said.

“I thought we had a bunch of kids compete well,” Connelly said. “I didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions, but they all did a really good job.”

Even if the performance did not represent the best product the Irish can put on the course, it strongly reflected the depth of a talented team with high aspirations for this season.

“We’re going to get better, we’re going to keep learning and we’re going to be really good this year,” Piane said.

The Irish will look to do just that after a couple weeks of hard training. Notre Dame returns to action in two weeks, when the Irish host the National Catholic Championships on Sept. 14 on the Burke Golf Course.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu