Cross Country: Irish travel to Bronx for Big East Championships
Joe Lindsley | Friday, October 31, 2003
Both the mens and womens cross country teams will spend Halloween in the Bronx, where each Irish squad will contend today for the Big East title. Though the race will not be an easy win, the women, who are the defending conference champions and who are ranked fifth nationally, are likely to scare the competition, particularly given their third-place finish two weeks ago at the Pre-National meet.
Meanwhile, the men, who took fourth place at last year’s race, have reasons not to be afraid this season – they are running at a venue where they have not failed to take the Big East title since 1995, and, unlike last year, they will be with the services of former All-American Todd Mobley. Mobley is a senior who missed last year’s event due to injury.
Every year the Big East Championships alternate between Van Cortland Park in the Bronx, N.Y. and Franklin Park in Boston. When the race is held is Boston, the mens cross country team seem to be subjected to some sort of Halloween curse, as they have yet to win a title there. While the Boston course seems to be cursed for the Irish, the New York course seems a more hallowed place for Notre Dame, given the team’s three Big East victories there.
The 24th-ranked men, who finished ninth among some of the nation’s very best squads at the Pre-National meet in the fields of Waterloo, Iowa, will not have a break in the big city this weekend either. The Big East field includes three teams ranked ahead of the Irish: No. 11 Villanova, No. 13 Georgetown, and No. 20 Providence. The Villanova Wildcats, who took the title last season, are returning their top two runners.
Fortunately the Irish, in addition to having a healthy Mobley, will have the services of some other very talented, albeit youthful, harriers. Sophomore Tim Moore has been leading the team of late, and his 16th place finish two weeks ago in Iowa put him among some of the nation’s best runners. Another sophomore, Kaleb van Ort, who took 53rd at the Pre-Nationals, will also contribute to the Irish effort. Freshman Kurt Benninger has immediately had a positive impact for the Irish since his first college race four weeks ago.
At the Pre-National race, the Irish, then ranked 15th, finished 75 points behind Georgetown.
The women, on the other hand, bested eighth-ranked Georgetown at the Pre-Nationals, though they were surpassed by un-ranked North Carolina. The Irish defeated four other teams in the top 25, but they could not catch No. 1 Brigham Young, the first place finishers with 86 points to Notre Dame’s 127.
Today, the women will not have to compete with the likes of BYU, but they will still have to contend against some highly-ranked conference foes. The eighth-ranked Providence Friars and 16th-ranked Georgetown will provide challenges. Other ranked Big East teams include No. 25 West Virginia, No. 27 Boston College, and No. 32 Villanova.
Last year, when the female Irish harriers took their first-ever Big East title, Lauren King took individual honors closely ahead of teammate Molly Huddle.
Since then, the same two runners have generally led the Irish, but the order has been reversed, with the sophomore Huddle usually leading the elder King. At the Pre-Nationals, Huddle finished 10th, amidst a pack of top runners. In each of the seven collegiate races she has run, Huddle has arrived at the finish line in the top 10. On her heels that day though was junior Kerry Meagher, who is in his first season running varsity races. King was 10 seconds behind and took 19th place.
While the Big East title race can affect the teams’ rankings, as well as their chance for at-large bids to the National Championships, the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, which will be held Nov. 15 in Terre Haute, Ind., is the opportunity for both teams to qualify for the NCAA title event.