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MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY: Freshman leads Irish to win in Valparaiso

Chris Khorey | Monday, September 12, 2005

Chris Rodriguez started his college career with a bang.

The freshman finished second overall with a time of 26:01 to lead Notre Dame to a win at the Crusader Invitational Friday at Sunset Hills Park in Valparaiso, Ind.

Rodriguez attributed his success to continuing to feel strong deep into the race.

“I was feeling good, so I tried to go as fast as I could, and it worked out,” he said.

Although it didn’t show in his performance, Rodriguez said the transition from five-kilometer (3.1 mile) races to eight-kilometer (5 mile) races was difficult.

“Going from 5K to 8K is a huge difference,” he said. “I definitely felt it when I got to the 5K point. I felt like I should be done, but I was only a little over half way.”

Rodriguez said the longer distances have been noticeable in practice as well.

“I put in the work this summer to prepare, but training has still been hard,” he said.

Irish coach Joe Piane sent a young squad to the meet in order to create depth and rest front-runners Tim Moore, Kurt Benninger and Kaleb Van Ort, among others. Notre Dame still won the six-team meet with a score of 26 points, besting second place Oakland by nine points.

Rodriguez led the way, but only 11 seconds behind him was Irish sophomore Zach Einterz, who finished third. Four more Irish runners finished in the top 10: sophomore James Millar took sixth, sophomore Brett Adams was seventh, sophomore Dan Bradley placed eighth and freshman Mark Moore finished ninth.

Sophomore Mike Popejoy, senior Tom Longo and freshman Kevin McFadden also competed. All finished in the top 30 of the 82-man field.

Rodriguez said the freshmen mainly ran together apart from the upperclassmen in pre-season training in order to ease their transition to collegiate distances. He said that because of this, he didn’t realize how fast he and the others had become.

“I wasn’t running with the top guys. [Instead] I was running with the freshmen, so I didn’t have anyone to compare myself to,” Rodriguez said.

Oakland runner Adam Freezer was the individual champion, but fourth runner Paul Kulesik could not get past the Irish pack of Millar, Adams, Bradley and Moore, and the Golden Grizzlies fell to second place.

The meet featured mostly small schools. Western Illinois was a distant third with 110 points, followed by St. Joseph’s and IUPUI.

Valparaiso and Wisconsin-Green Bay tied for sixth, and Chicago State finished eighth with 260 points.

The Irish will be full strength next week when they host the 26th National Catholic Championships, a meet they won last year, at Burke Memorial Golf Course.