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Men’s Cross Country: Piane welcomes 12 new freshmen

Chris Khorey | Saturday, August 19, 2006

With a multi-year contract extension extension in hand, Irish coach Joe Piane will begin his 32nd season at Notre Dame with 12 new faces on his roster.

After losing four top seniors – Tim Moore, Kaleb Van Ort, Sean O’Donnell and Vinny Ambrico – Piane said the freshmen will have a chance to make an immediate impact.

“I’ve got some holes to fill,” he said. “We’re going to have some pretty good kids, but we’re going to have to fill in with some freshmen.”

Piane singled out freshmen Brock Hagerman of Markleville, Ind., Greg Kiley of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and Jake Walker of Ellwood City, Penn. as the leading candidates to run with Notre Dame’s top seven early in the season.

Hagerman won the individual Indiana state cross country championship last fall, while Kiley was the New York state champion in the indoor 1,600 meters. Walker recorded the fourth fastest high school indoor 3,000-meter time in the nation as a senior.

Piane said other freshman may also contribute, but that several of the twelve in the incoming class – mainly middle-distance track runners – will be on the roster purely to stay in shape for track season.

The Irish coaching staff sent each new runner a packet with workout instructions at the beginning of the summer. The program included a slow buildup in mileage, starting at 35 miles per week and growing throughout the summer. Piane also asked his runners to compete in several road races.

The idea, Piane said, was to acclimate the freshmen to running longer distances. College cross country races are 10 kilometers, twice the distance of high school.

“That’s a heck of a jump,” Piane said. “What I’m asking them to do is run their high school best twice in one race. There really aren’t other sports that are analogous.”

While Piane said the newcomers have stuck faithfully to the program, it hasn’t always been easy, according to freshman Jim Notwell of Upper Arlington, Ohio.

“In high school, our workouts were pretty light. Our coaches tried to make sure we didn’t get hurt, with shin splints and things you can get if you run too much,” Notwell said. “I’m doing twice as much running now as I ever did in high school in terms of mileage.”

The Irish open fall practice Sunday and will run their first race Sept. 8 at the Valparaiso Invitational in Valparaiso, Ind.