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Stanford takes title, but Irish runners not far behind

Bobby Griffin | Tuesday, October 5, 2004

The Irish may have run a good race on Friday, but the Cardinal soared.

Notre Dame put on a great showing, as the men took second and the women third in the Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational. But the story of the race was Stanford, who won both the men’s and women’s events.

The Cardinal men are ranked No. 2 in the nation, while the women are ranked No. 1, according to separate polls.

Stanford led the men’s race with 89 points while the women won with 34 points.

The Irish performed very well, especially on the men’s side, following up on their dominating performance in the National Catholic Invitational.

This, however, was a much different race, with a much different class of runner.

Men’s coach Joe Piane stressed the difficulty of the race, and the highly-talented field that the Irish had to compete with.

“Going into the race there [were] eight nationally-ranked teams and we were actually ranked eight going into it,” said Piane. “We beat six nationally-ranked teams and we came pretty close to Stanford.”

Irish runner Kurt Benninger finished second overall, with a time of 23:43, just three seconds behind Brigham Young University’s Josh Rohatinsky, who won the race.

“We were pretty excited after the race. We’re not ranked as high as we thought that we should be, but we knew that if we just went out there and ran to our potential that we would get the job done,” said Benninger.

Benninger was one of four Irish runners to finish in the top 20. Tim Moore, who won the National Catholic Invitational, finished in 13th place with a 23:58, Kaleb Van Ort finished 14th just one second behind Moore with a 23:59 and Sean O’Donnell finished in 20th with a 24:04.

“It was a very good performance,” said Piane, referring to the team’s play as a whole after Friday’s finish.

The Irish only finished six points behind Stanford. Rounding out the top 10 were Butler, Air Force, BYU, Florida State, Indiana, Miami of Ohio, Florida and UCLA.

“We weren’t scared or giving any other teams a whole lot of extra credit, we just wanted to go out there and run our own race and get the job done,” said Benninger. “We were just excited that we were able to execute the way that we did but we weren’t really surprised by the result.”

On the women’s side, Molly Huddle finished in second place with a 16:31 and Kerry Meagher finished in 5th place with a 16:45.

“I don’t think we were shocked that we were third,” said women’s head coach Tim Connelly. “[I knew] we were going to be a little short at 5, and we were, and that shows us where we are at right now.”

Stephanie Madia was the last Irish runner to finish in the top 20, coming in with a 17:11, which was good for 17th place.

Sunni Olding, a freshman runner who Connelly has praised all year, didn’t run her best race, finishing in 31st place with a 17:30. Connelly attributed Olding’s time to her being under the weather.

“I think we need to do a better job keeping [Olding] and [Madia] together, and that will happen,” said Connelly.

The women’s 127 points were a semi-distant third to Stanford’s 34 points and Michigan’s 87 points, however they were also very much in front of the teams finishing behind them.

Missouri finished fourth with 164 points. Rounding out the top 10 were Michigan State, William and Mary, UCLA, Butler, Florida State and Penn State.

Notre Dame will race next in the Pre-National Championship in Terre Haute, Ind. on Oct. 16th.