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ND Cross Country: Smyth wins second straight title

Laura Myers | Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Irish ran well enough Saturday to run one more race.

Both the men’s and women’s teams earned at-large bids to the NCAA Championships with fourth-place finishes at the Great Lakes Regional at Purdue University.

“We’re very happy to have made the championships, no doubt about it,” men’s head coach Joe Piane said. “Everything went according to plan.”

The top two teams in the region gained automatic entries to nationals, but the Irish had to wait a day and a half to find out if they made it.

Senior Patrick Smyth won the regional for the second straight year, finishing the men’s 10-kilometer race in 31:06.

“[Smyth] is one of the best runners in the country, I think he proved that Saturday,” Piane said. “I’m very anxious to see how he runs at nationals. Of course we want him be an All-American again, but I think he can be pretty high in the rankings, too.”

Smyth, a four-time All-American (two in track and field), finished 15th out of the 250 runners at the 2007 nationals.

Following Smyth in the men’s race were freshman Joe Miller, who finished 20th, sophomore Dan Jackson in 28th and senior Daniel Clark in 30th.

The men Wisconsin won the meet with 39 points, followed by Michigan with 62 points and Butler with 104 points. Notre Dame had 124 points.

Junior Lindsey Ferguson led the Irish and finished 10th overall in the women’s 6K race in 21:29. Ferguson has paced the Irish consistently this season, leading in all but one race.

Sophomore Marissa Treece came in 14th with a time of 21:40. Senior Heidi Rocha finished 31st in 22:04, with freshman Rachel Velarde right behind her in 34th with a time of 22:06.

Michigan won the women’s race with 72 points, with Wisconsin in second with 80. Michigan State placed third with 83 points. The Irish totaled 125 points.

Piane said the team will scale back in training this week to prepare for nationals.

“You’re not going to get in better shape at this point, you’ll only injure yourself,” he said. “We’ll do short things, maybe two workouts this week, then head out on Friday.”

This will be Piane’s 19th time leading a team to the national championships, and 21st bringing at least one runner.

Indiana State University will host the championships on Nov. 24 in Terre Haute, Ind.