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ND Cross Country

Notre Dame to run at loaded Wisconsin Invitational

| Thursday, October 15, 2015

After a week off, Notre Dame will return to action Friday at the Wisconsin Invitational.

The Wisconsin Invitational stands as one of two remaining regular-season races for the Irish, who will take the course at the Illini Open next week before heading to the ACC championships at the end of the month.

For the first time since Sept. 4, the Irish will be racing away from home, as both of Notre Dame’s past two events — the National Catholic Championship and the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational — were hosted by the Irish.

“There’s good and bad things about being on the road,” Notre Dame associate head coach Matthew Sparks said. “It’s nice to get away from home and close your textbooks for a little bit. It’s a little mini-vacation to go on the road, sleep on the bus and be able to catch your breath from all the academic rigors of Notre Dame. That gives you a little more of a peaceful feeling, but then you’re on enemy territory, so you’re unfamiliar with the course. That’s one of the unique things about cross country. In football, the field is 100 yards wherever you go, but in cross country, the terrain is different everywhere you go.

“If you’ve never been to the course before, there’s uncertainty, so we’re actually going to be at the course on Thursday to run the course. Hopefully that will give us more comfort with the course for the next day.”

Friday’s meet will feature several of the best teams across the nation. The No. 18 Irish women will be running against 19 other top-25 teams at the meet, while 17 of the top 30 men’s teams will be in attendance.

“Other than the NCAA championship meet in late November, this is the most competitive meet in the country,” said Sparks. “It’s the best warm-up we can have to prepare for the late season championship races. It will be a new experience for a lot of women who are running in the varsity top seven for us. That’s going to be one of our big challenges. We have girls that traditionally have been top-five for every race in their entire high school career [that] now are trying to be in the top 100 of a race.”

At their last meet, the Notre Dame’s men finished 10th at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational and the women finished third. Sparks said he had specific goals for his teams’ performances at Wisconsin.

“From a team perspective, a goal for our women’s team would be to finish in the top 10. For the men’s team, if they could finish in the top 25, then we could begin to establish ourselves as a nationally-competitive team, and that’s the goal for the men’s program: to compete at the national level. We’re just on the outskirts of that now and this is a good chance to reestablish ourselves as a program that can compete nationally.”

The Wisconsin Invitational is set to begin at noon Friday in Madison, Wisconsin.

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