ND Cross Country
Women rise, men falter at Notre Dame Invitational
Greg Hadley | Monday, October 6, 2014
On a soggy and windy Friday, the Irish women rolled through the mud and the water at Notre Dame Golf Course to a third-place finish at the 59th annual Notre Dame Invitational.
Leading the way for Notre Dame, junior Molly Seidel followed up her victory at the National Catholic Championships two weeks ago with a fifth-place finish Friday, traversing the five-kilometer course in 16:19.9.
“Molly’s been the leader for our group all fall,” Irish coach Matt Sparks said. “She’s gained a lot of confidence as the weeks have gone by, and Molly’s confidence has kind of been resonating with the whole team at this point. We saw that from our second down to our seventh runner. Everybody had their best performance of the year.”Junior Danielle Aragon followed close behind Seidel, placing 11th while cutting her time from last year’s Notre Dame Invitational by two and a half minutes, from 19:02.9 to 16:29.9.
Sophomore Taylor Driscoll and senior Emily Frydrych brought up the middle section of the Irish pack, placing 33th and 35th, respectively. Frydrych, the first of three seniors for Notre Dame, has emerged as a leader for the Irish as she has moved into the top five, Sparks said.
“The glue for the … women’s team this season has been Emily Frydrych,” he said. “She finished fourth on Friday, and she has been a great leader for our team all season. It’s nice to see your seniors come out and carry a lot of the weight. She’s done a lot of the work as far as veteran leadership and talking to the girls, but she’s also carrying the weight on the course as well.
“That middle group was a little bit of a question mark, and she helped keep [them] together.”
Facing two ranked squads as well as five other teams that received votes in the coaches poll, the Irish packed all five of their scoring runners in the top 65 of 165 athletes.
No. 12 New Mexico cruised to the team title with a combined score of 49 points, 74 ahead of runner-up North Carolina State, who was, until recently, ranked 29th in the nation. The Wolfpack were just 24 points ahead of the Irish.
After matching up so well against some of the nation’s top teams, Sparks said the team has begun to think bigger in terms of what it can accomplish this season.
“Our goal has always been to be at the national championship meet,” he said. “I think that just gives them a more solid belief that that’s where we should end the season. I also think it’s giving us some perspective on where we can finish at the national level.”
While the women exceeded Sparks’s expectations, the men struggled to compete against a field that included 10 ranked squads, including the team champion, No. 19 Michigan, and No. 10 BYU. Led by junior Timothy Ball in his first meet of the season, the Irish finished in 14th place out of 24 teams.
“It was a tough day,” Sparks said. “We brought back Tim Ball, who missed the first few meets … and he came out and made up for it. We basically have three veteran runners, but you need a seven-man team to be successful. The younger freshmen and sophomores just haven’t been in a race of that magnitude since coming to college.
“We need those guys to really step up and learn quickly. We talked about what we wanted to do, and they understood what they needed to do, but putting it into practice was harder to do. It was a good learning experience for them.”
Sophomores Jacob Dumford and Chris Marco, who combined for four top-10 finishes in the first two meets of the year, finished in 115th and 198th place, respectively, after starting out slowly and getting caught in the mud behind stronger runners, Sparks said.
While the result was discouraging for the team, Sparks also said Notre Dame will have a chance to redeem itself and square off against more top competition at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in two weeks.
“We’ll see a lot more talented teams, more nationally-ranked programs, at Wisconsin,” Sparks said. “That will give us a real telling sign of where we can be regionally, nationally and even at the conference level.”
The Irish women look to continue their recent run of success and the men will try to rebound at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, on Oct. 17.