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ND Cross Country

Irish set to host Notre Dame Invitational

| Thursday, October 2, 2014

Two weeks after the National Catholic Championships, the Irish will return to the Notre Dame Golf Course on Friday for the 59th annual Notre Dame Invitational, with the men looking for redemption and the women hoping to build momentum.

On the women’s side, junior Molly Seidel became the 12th Irish athlete in a row to capture the individual crown at the National Catholic meet. She also led all five of Notre Dame’s scoring runners into the top 10, securing the team title for the 13th consecutive year.

“I think [the win] was a good confidence booster,” Seidel said. “We know what we’re capable of. … It showed some things we could work on, but more than anything, I think it got us really excited for [Friday].”

However, the competition will be far more challenging this weekend, Seidel said. Nine of the 23 teams in the women’s race are either ranked nationally or received votes in the coaches poll. Leading the way is No. 12 New Mexico, who finished in the top 10 at the NCAA championship last fall.

Irish senior Karen Lesiewicz, left, and juniors Danielle Aragon, center, and Molly Seidel lead the pack at the National Catholics on Sept. 19.Wei Lin | The Observer

Irish senior Karen Lesiewicz, left, and juniors Danielle Aragon, center, and Molly Seidel lead the pack at the National Catholics on Sept. 19.

“We’re all very excited to have that great competition,” Seidel said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to go out and show the work we’ve been putting in and really prove ourselves early in the season.”

The Irish had a two-week break between meets and used the break to focus on their finishing speed and pack-running, Seidel said.

“We’ve had two great weeks of training,” Seidel said. “We’ve been working on staying together as a team and really working off of each other. That’s something that’s really important in cross [country] because it’s such a team sport. And we’ve also been working on being mentally tough.”

While this will mark the third meet on Notre Dame’s schedule, the Irish, like most other top teams, entered the season with the mindset that the invitational marks the true start to the racing season, Seidel said.

For the Irish men, the invitational will also mark the first time this season the squad will race at full strength. In the season-opening Crusader Open, Notre Dame sent a reduced squad primarily composed of freshmen and sophomores, with the purpose of getting younger runners collegiate experience.

At the National Catholic Championships, juniors Michael Clevenger and Timothy Ball, two of Notre Dame’s top-three runners, both missed the meet, and the Irish felt their absence, losing to Canisius narrowly, 33-35. The loss snapped Notre Dame’s win streak at the meet at five years. Clevenger was dealing with a minor injury, and Ball had a family obligation two weeks ago, but both are now ready to kick-off their season, Seidel said.

“Both of them are really excited,” she said. “They’re angry about two weeks ago and they’re ready to show everyone they’re one of the top teams.”

Without Clevenger and Ball, the Irish have been led so far by sophomore Chris Marco and senior Jake Kildoo, who have combined to win both invitationals Notre Dame has raced at so far. Marco has been particularly impressive after only racing in two meets his freshman season, Seidel said.

“He’s an incredibly hard worker,” she said. “He’s been putting in the time, and it’s really nice to see him have success. I’m excited for him this season. If he can do the job of staying healthy and continue to keep the work ethic he’s shown throughout the past year, I think he’ll have a fantastic season.”

While the women will face stiff competition in their race, the men have an even tougher field, with ten of the 23 teams ranked in the top 25 nationally. The Irish faced many of these teams at last year’s national championship, including No. 10 BYU, who finished fourth in the nation last season.

The Irish take to the Notre Dame Golf Course on Friday at 2 p.m. for the 59th edition of the Notre Dame Invitational. The women’s varsity race is scheduled for 4:15 p.m., with the men following at 5 p.m.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

Contact Greg