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ND Cross Country: ND grabs top-five finishes

Aaron Sant-Miller | Monday, October 29, 2012

In a field of 14 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams, both squads snagged top-five finishes in the Big East championship on Friday. The men’s squad finished third on the day, while the women finished fifth.

“We’re satisfied, but we’re still kind of hungry, too, because we always want to win,” senior Jeremy Rae said. “Our goal was to win all three Big East men’s titles in one year: indoor [track], outdoor and cross country. So, we kind of fell short of that. We didn’t really think we were going to win and a third place finish is still very good, so we’re satisfied with how we did.”

For the women, there was more disappointment than satisfaction following the meet, senior Rebecca Tracy said.

“We really wanted to be in the top three. We really do have a team with a lot of potential, we just have yet to put it all together on the same day,” Tracy said. “It was a little disappointing to come in fifth. We felt this would have been the year to finish above fifth, which we haven’t done in my four years here. We were within 10 points of the third-place team, so if each person could have gotten one more spot, it could have made a huge difference. To come that close, it was kind of disappointing.”

Rae, who finished third overall with a time of 24:39, led the men. Following Rae were junior Martin Grady (24:46), senior J. P. Malette (24:58), sophomore Jake Kildoo (25:13) and junior Walter Schafer (25:14), who finished eighth, 14th, 22nd and 23rd, respectively.

Junior Kelly Curran led the Irish women with a time of 21:21 and finished 12th overall. Curran was followed by Tracy (21:25), sophomores Hannah Eckstein (21:33) and Gabby Gonzales (21:36) and freshmen Molly Seidel (21:45) and Danielle Aragon (21:54), who finished 15th, 20th, 21st, 22nd and 25th, respectively.

For the men’s team, a large goal for the Big East meet was bouncing back, Rae said. Two weeks ago, the Irish stumbled to a 26th place finish in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.

“We didn’t do well in Wisconsin; we were 26th. It was a competitive race, but we got beat by a lot of teams we should have beaten,” Rae said. “We were just really down after that, but we had two weeks of good training over fall break. I think we were a lot more confident going in. Since we finished third, we met our expectations of finishing in the top three. It’s a big step up from where we were a few weeks ago.”

Along with the top overall team finishes, the Irish also earned some individual accolades. Led by Curran and Rae, the Irish had five runners earn all-Big East honors. Curran, Rae, Tracy, Grady and Malette were all recognized as top runners in the Big East.

“It was exciting [to win all-Big East],” Tracy said. “This year, my senior year, one of the things I really wanted to do was finally be all-Big East. So, despite the [overall] finish, I can’t be terribly upset.”

For Notre Dame, wrapping up the Big East championship meet brings the team one step closer to the NCAA championship meet. On Nov. 9, the team will travel to Madison, Wis. for the NCAA Great Lakes Regionals. If the Irish can finish in the top two at that meet, they will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA championship. Doing so is the goal, as neither squad wants to wait for at-large points, Tracy said.

“Our expectation is to go in and make nationals. We need to go in with that mentality, that we have the type of team that is absolutely capable of being one of the top two teams in the region,” Tracy said. “We shouldn’t have to wait for at-large points to compete at the national level.”

The Irish will look to bring a well-rested squad to Madison in just under two weeks, as Notre Dame will race for a spot in the NCAA championship in the Great Lakes Regionals on Nov. 9.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu.