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ND Cross Country

Squad splits to prepare for postseason

| Thursday, October 12, 2017

This weekend, the Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country teams will split to attend competitions that will prepare them for both the ACC and National Championships.

The women’s team will compete at the prestigious Nuttycombe Invitational at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course in Madison, Wisconsin, while the men’s team will head to Louisville, Kentucky, to compete at Pre-Nationals at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park. Irish associate head coach Matt Sparks said that after the women’s disappointing 13th-place finish at the Joe Piane Invitational two weeks ago, the team has begun to find a new identity in the absence of star runner, junior Anna Rohrer, who has been ruled out for the season.

Irish senior Jessica Harris leads the pack during the Joe Piane Invitational on Sept. 29 at the Burke Golf Course. The Irish women finished 13th overall. Anna Mason | The Observer

Irish senior Jessica Harris and junior Annie Heffernan lead the pack during the National Catholic Invitational on Sept. 15 at the Burke Golf Course. Heffernan finished first overall.

“We had a great two weeks of practice and have a newfound sense of confidence as a result of that,” Sparks said. “So, expect bigger and better things than we saw at [the Joe Piane Invitational] two weeks ago. I think there was a learning curve to how to react without Anna Rohrer leading the way like she had the last couple years for us.

“Everyone has kind of found their swing as a result of the last competition and has a clearer view of the team now and how they need to step up and be more competitive. We’ve seen the results of that in practice the last two weeks.”

Sparks said the Nuttycombe Invitational, one of the nation’s premier collegiate meets, is critical for the Irish to regain some of their reputation and rise in the rankings as qualifying for nationals grows nearer.

“From a team perspective, this is the best regular season meet in the country throughout the year,” Spark said. “If we’re going to make a run at qualifying for nationals, this is the meet where we need to put ourselves back on the radar. We’re looking at an at-large qualifying berth going forward, and we need to start establishing ourselves as a result of what we do in this meet. If we can finish in the top 15, we’ve helped ourselves in that cause.”

On the men’s side, assistant coach Sean Carlson said the squad is using Pre-Nationals as a tune-up for the ACC Championships on Oct. 27.

“[One] of the main goals for this weekend is to start gaining some momentum heading into the conference meet,” Carlson said. “Kinda seeing what pieces we have — we’re running some people that we haven’t run before in the race this weekend — and we’re getting some guys back from injury. Also, the meet is on the same course that our conference meet is on, so we’ll get a really good idea of what that looks like. There’s a few other ACC schools that’ll be at the meet, so we’ll get to see how we look from a conference standpoint. The most important thing to get out of this is a step in the right direction and some momentum heading into the conference meet, so that we can and try and be a top-six team at conference.”

Carlson elaborated on who exactly will be returning for the Irish and said the men’s side has a good deal of untapped potential.

“I think we’re a better team than those results may indicate,” Carlson said. “We tried to be a 12-14 place-type team at the Joe Piane Invitational and we kinda fell short of that. Senior Brent Kennedy … will be opening up for us this weekend. [Graduate student] Connor Sheryak is another guy who we’re also looking to step up, help us and push us to that next level. So those are two seniors in our lineup that make a pretty big difference. [Sophomore] Ryan Schweizer has made huge steps in cross country, so I’m looking for him to be a pretty big player at the conference meet. So we’ll be adding three new faces, all of which should be around top five. That’ll be key for us heading into the conference meet.”

The Nuttycombe Invitational will take place on Friday at noon, while Pre-Nationals will begin on Saturday at noon.

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a junior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. He is a proud resident of Stanford Hall and the defending champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

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