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CROSS COUNTRY: Both Irish teams win Big East Championships

Chris Khorey | Monday, October 31, 2005

It was almost too easy.

The Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country ran away with the Big East Championships literally and figuratively Saturday at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx, N.Y.

The No. 4 Irish women defeated second place Providence by a large 34-59 margin. Providence came into the meet ranked No. 16 in the country. Notre Dame placed four runners in the top 10 and recorded the lowest score in a women’s Big East Championship race since Villanova scored 29 to win the 1994 title.

On the men’s side, the No. 5 Irish beat out Georgetown 31-51, placing all five scoring runners in the top 10.

Even more impressive, men’s head coach Joe Piane said, were the Irish times. Kurt Benninger, Kaleb Van Ort, Tim Moore, Sean O’Donnell and Patrick Smyth all finished with times under 25 minutes.

“What we were really thrilled with is how fast everyone ran,” Piane said. “Normally, if you can get a couple of guys under 25 [minutes], you’re thrilled.”

Benninger, Van Ort, Moore, O’Donnell and Smyth all earned all-conference honors. Jake Watson and Vinny Ambrico also competed for the Irish, finishing 18th and 19th, respectively.

Senior All-Americans Stephanie Madia and Molly Huddle led the women. Huddle finished second with a time of 20:52, while Madia finished third, two seconds behind. Sunni Olding was the third runner for the Irish, finishing fifth with a time of 21:04. Freshman phenom Ramsey Kavan was the fourth Notre Dame runner in the top ten, finishing eighth in 21:26.

Madia, Huddle, Olding and Kavan were all named all-conference.

Katie DeRusso scored as the fifth runner for the Irish, finishing 16th with a time of 21:58. Jean Marinangeli was three seconds behind in eighteenth. Elizabeth Webster rounded out the Irish lineup with a 32nd place finish.

DeRusso, Marinangeli and Webster had been competing for the fifth spot all year long, but in each race they had all finished well behind Kavan. At Van Cortlandt Park, they all finished less than a minute and a half behind the freshman.

The coaching staffs of both Piane and women’s coach Tim Connelly earned Big East Coaching Staff of the Year honors. Piane said the award, while flattering, should be more about the team than the coaches.

“It means a lot because it’s voted on by your peers, but all it is truly a reflection of is how well the kids ran,” he said.

Having won their conference, both Irish teams now look ahead to the Great Lakes Regional Nov. 12 in Bloomington, Ind.

“If you look at our schedule, it can be pretty much divided in half,” Piane said. “The first section is some important meets, but the second half, starting with the Big East Championships, is what we call the ‘championship’ season. It’s our goal to have a successful ‘championship’ season.

“This [conference championship] bodes well for us qualifying for the NCAAs and doing well at them.”