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Seven to run in nationals

Joe Lindsley | Monday, November 24, 2003

The nation’s 510 fastest and toughest long distance runners will compete in the national cross-country championships this afternoon in a city known, appropriately, as the “Gateway to the trails.”Notre Dame will send the No. 4 women’s cross-country team and two individual male qualifiers to Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Iowa, a metro area in the rolling hills of northeastern Iowa with 65 miles of trails.The race, however, will take place on just 6 kilometers of those trails on the Irv Warren Golf Course. The Irish hope the victory-laden course they have taken all season will culminate with a national title.”As long as we can all take the line and run as a team, we have a shot of doing really well,” sophomore Stephanie Madia said.Notre Dame hails from chilly northern Indiana and could have an advantage with cold weather in the forecast.Seven Irish runners, led by sophomore Molly Huddle and King under the tutelage of coach Tim Connelly, will represent the Notre Dame women at the national championships.While the men’s cross country team narrowly missed qualifying, sophomore Tim Moore and senior Todd Mobley qualified independently. All runners who did not qualify will support their teammates.”Although only the top seven will be racing, all 24 runners are making the trip to Cedar Falls,” senior co-captain Katie Ellgass said. In mid-October, the women finished third and the men ninth in the Pre-National Championships, with many of the country’s top teams coming to Cedar Falls. Today, the women are looking for the fall of such teams as defending NCAA champion Brigham Young, and perennial power Stanford.At the Pre-National event earlier this season, the Irish women finished with a score of 127 behind No. 1 BYU, with 86 points, and North Carolina, with 99 points. Notre Dame finished just ahead of No. 22 Michigan, a team the Irish beat just last week when they won the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute, Ind. That win gave both the Irish and Wolverines automatic bids into today’s race. After that race, Connelly was also named Great Lakes Region coach of the year.The Irish have some great assets as they contend with the nation’s top talent, which has plenty of reason to take Notre Dame seriously. Huddle, who after running No. 2 for most of last season has emerged as the team’s top runner, is coming off her individual victory at the Great Lakes regional. The All-American runner is in a position to achieve the highest finish ever by a female Notre Dame runner at the national championship race. In 1996, Joanna Deeter finished third.Running close to their top runner will be King and senior Kerry Meagher, who finished seventh and eighth, respectively, at the regional championships last weekend.The Irish lineup is completed by senior Megan Johnson, who finished 12th at the regional race, sophomores Madia and Jean Marinangeli and senior Katie Wales. Sophomore Elizabeth Webster is on hand as the Irish alternate.In the men’s race, Mobley will make his fourth-straight NCAA Championship appearance, and he will try to better his 38th-place finish in 2001. Moore, who led Notre Dame to its 22nd-place finish in the national championships last year, will seek his first All-America honor. Today’s race is slated to air on the Fox Sports network Dec. 3 at 3 p.m.