ND Cross Country
Molly Seidel wins title, Michael Clevenger leads men’s squad
Marek Mazurek | Friday, May 13, 2016
Led by a strong freshman class and senior All-American Molly Seidel, Notre Dame raced to its best finish in over a decade as the Irish women finished eighth in the nation at the NCAA championships.
“I think that’s the goal of any coach at Notre Dame, to put your best team on the course,” Irish associate head coach Matthew Sparks said. “Women’s cross country and men’s cross country are programs we feel can compete on a national level here. We finally got to where we’d like to be year in and year out.”
In leading the women’s team to the eighth-place finish, Seidel won the individual championship, giving Notre Dame its first national champion in cross country since 1942.
Joining Seidel atop the leaderboard was freshman Anna Rohrer, who finished sixth after leading the pack with Seidel for most of the race. In the last thousand meters, however, Seidel pulled away from the rest of the competition.
“I went into it with a mentality of I wanted to run from the front and just be aggressive,” Seidel said. “Until you cross the finish line, you never know whether someone’s going to be coming up, you never get lax, you never get complacent, but I was definitely feeling confident throughout that race, and I felt very in control of the situation. That gave me a lot of strength to go hard and just push hard from the front.”
From the start of the season, the women’s faced high expectation as the Irish brought in a highly-touted freshman class which was ranked the top class in the nation, per FloTrack.
“We had the roster from the start of the year, and everybody just had to do their jobs day in and day out,” Sparks said. “That’s what put us where we wanted to be — everybody taking care of themselves, knowing what they needed to do from day one. The neat thing about that is we were such a young team with three or four freshman in our top-seven. Those freshman came in with lofty goals, and we were able to work towards and achieve those goals.”
The Irish started the season close to home as the team’s first three meets took place in Indiana, including the National Catholic Championship and the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational held at Notre Dame Golf Course. Sparks said he liked having two home meets earlier in the season to give his younger runners a chance to get acclimated to the college racing environment.
“That’s a big component of our schedule,” Sparks said. “It gives the younger kids on the team a chance to start the year off within the friendly confines of basically walking across campus to your home course. Especially with the younger girls and guys we had … it’s still a comforting factor to know it is on your home course, the same place we run two or three days a week.”
On Oct. 30, the Irish competed in the ACC championships, with the women placing third and the men placing sixth. Two weeks later, the team moved on to the NCAA regional competition, where the women qualified for the NCAA championships.
The men’s team did not make it to the NCAA championship race, but senior Michael Clevenger qualified individually and achieved All-American status, coming in 38th.
What Clevenger’s final time doesn’t show, however, is the fact that the Decatur, Illinois, native moved up nearly 25 spots in the final stretch of the race to get the All-American honor.
“I saw him with about a mile to go and he looked pretty stagnant in about 60th place,” Sparks said. “I didn’t get to see the last five minutes of the race, and I get [to the finish line] and people are telling me he’s an All-American. … I [thought] they were congratulating me on the women’s All-Americans. I didn’t realized he had geared down and got those guys. He’s the toughness factor, he’s got the talent factor. He’s just a great leader vocally for the men’s team. Not a better guy you want leading your squad than Mike Clevenger.”