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Club Sports: Cycling team wins first mass start A race

Special to The Observer | Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On a frigid Saturday afternoon, through the snow glazed fields and around the frozen lakes of Greencastle, Ind., Notre Dame’s men’s A team broke through the varsity barrier and scored its first ever mass start A victory in school history. Raising his arms in triumph at the conclusion of the 73-mile event, sophomore John Pratt accomplished what few non-scholarship athletes achieve in a collegiate cycling career, besting professional riders, national champions and Olympians alike.

Composed of nine circuits around an eight-mile loop, the Men’s A race began with a flourish, as athlete after athlete tried to ride out of sight on winding, wooded roads. With an average pace of 27 mph over the first three laps, none succeeded until midway through the fourth when Irish senior cyclist Joe Magro sprinted clear with two riders from Marian University, two from Lindenwood University and one from Ohio State.

Despite achieving nearly a two-minute advantage over the field, Magro’s breakaway was undone by the efforts of Wisconsin, and the race came back together with three laps remaining. Sensing opportunity to be gained from a tired pack, Pratt followed a second wave of riders up the road, and they soon left all chasers behind.

Biding his time until the finish, Pratt moved to the far side of the street in the closing meters, keeping all rivals in sight. When the sprint began, Pratt was fast to respond and none could match his turn of speed to the line.

Back in the field, Magro quickly recovered from his early efforts and followed another chase group after the leaders. First dropping two from Lindenwood, then a third from Indiana, Magro found himself alone, over a minute ahead of the peloton, but still well behind Pratt. Soloing the final 14 miles to the finish, Magro held off a charging field at the line, putting an exclamation on a great day in men’s A.

Other notable results from Saturday’s road race included seniors Pat Handy and Phil Palmon finishing eighth and 11th in men’s C, respectively.

Criterium racing Sunday was delayed due to icy conditions, but Notre Dame wasted little time getting on the scoreboard with Palmon’s career best seventh place in the second race of the morning, men’s C.

Not to be bested, the Fighting Irish “B Musketeers” provided an encore performance of their domination at Lindsey Wilson just one week earlier, controlling the race from start to finish.
With junior Luke Tilmans and sophomore Mike Chifala blocking from the rear, sophomore Jim Snitzer rode into the distance and delivered Notre Dame’s second win of the weekend. Cleaning up the leftovers, Tilmans (seventh, and Chifala (12th) also scored major points for Notre Dame.

With the seal finally broken, and hungry for more success, Notre Dame was active and at the front of the Men’s A criterium all afternoon. Magro bore the standard for the Irish early, chasing after potential breakaways almost constantly for the first 20 minutes of the event.

Passing the baton to Pratt while resting, Magro was not disappointed by the speedy sophomore, who worked his way into the winning move with 30 minutes of the hour-long race gone.
Although Magro was forced to abandon the race with a flat tire, Pratt again rode strongly for the Irish, and notched another top-five for the team with his fourth-place effort.

With the double victory and numerous top-10 results, Notre Dame is firmly in control of the D2 conference and individual races. The Irish will take the line again in St. Louis the weekend of March 23.

Equestrian

The ND/SMC equestrian team competed Saturday in the regional competition in Culver, Ind.  Junior Katie Walsh started the day with a second place finish in open fences, followed by junior Stephanie Nearhos also placing second in intermediate fences. Walsh then started off the flat portion of the day with a third place finish in open flat. Senior Whitney Preisser took third place in intermediate flat. 

Three riders competed in Walk-Trot-Canter and all had great finishes.  Sophomore Shannon Noonan took third place, Ellen Moriarty finished fifth and senior Catie Hrabrick came in sixth. Freshman Annalis Cigarroa finished the day with a great win in Walk-Trot, going undefeated in that division this season.

Walsh, Nearhos and Cigarroa move on to Zones for the Irish in open fences, intermediate fences and Walk-Trot, respectively.

Ultimate Frisbee: Midwest Throwdown

The Irish finally began their season last weekend in St. Louis at Midwest Throwdown. The A-team played exceptionally well in the cold, windy conditions and won the 20-team tournament, while the B-Team, facing exclusively A-teams from other schools, finished 19th.

The No. 3-seeded A-team opened Saturday pool play with comfortable wins against Wisconsin-Milwaukee B, Western Illinois and Drury by scores of 13-1,13-2 and 13-3, respectively. In the last game of the day against St. Louis University, the Irish built an 11-7 lead, but a series of mistakes and uncharacteristic turnovers led to a 12-11 loss. Despite the defeat, Notre Dame still finished second in the pool and advanced to the quarterfinals.

The loss meant a tougher road Sunday, and led to an opening round matchup against Truman State. Notre Dame closed the door on Truman winning 15-10 to advance to the semifinals against top-seeded Washington University.

The game against Washington started poorly. Trailing in the second half, 11-7, ND started a furious comeback to take a 12-11 lead. The two teams traded points setting up double game point at 13-13. Notre Dame received the pull, but turned the disc over. After Washington moved the disc to midfield, senior Collin Mackett made a pivotal layout block to get the disc back to the Irish.

After a couple more turns by each team, Irish senior Dan Bolivar found junior Conor Hanney in the endzone to win the game 14-13.

Riding the high from the semifinal, the team jumped out to an early lead against Nebraska and never allowed them to pull within two points after halftime, eventually winning the game 15-10 and sealing the tournament championship.