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ND Cross Country: Team graduates 13 seniors

Megan Finneran | Friday, May 20, 2011

Nov. 22, 2010 marked the official end of a career for 13 seniors. While many of them would continue to compete in track during the winter and spring months, their time as long-distance racers came to an end.

The men finalized their season at the NCAA championships, taking 25th overall. Dan Jackson, the only senior in the championship meet, crossed the line in 100th place.

“I am most proud of helping lead the team to a 25th place finish at the NCAA national championships [after] beginning the season unranked,” Jackson said. “I have never been part of a team that trained so hard and was focused so much on a single goal.”

Prior to that final day, Jackson earned a fourth-place finish and all-region honors at the NCAA Midwest regional, where the men took third. Senior Mat Abernathy contributed a 139th place finish for the Irish, crossing the line for the last time.

The women earned sixth place, as senior Erica Watson took 45th in her last race.

“One of my favorite memories is lining up to race the Regionals meet, and hearing the reverberating cheers exploding from our kilt-and-face-paint-wearing cheering section,” Watson said.

Both teams began the season with first place finishes at the Valparaiso Crusader Open Sept. 3, where Irish senior Paul Springer took first place, followed immediately by senior Thomas Noel in second.

The Big East championships also highlighted the season, where the men finished fifth and the women sixth. Jackson earned his first all-Big East honor, notching a 12th place finish. Other seniors competing in the meet included Abernathy, who came in 53rd, and Ryan Gamboa, who took 69th. On the women’s side, Watson took 33rd, joined by fellow senior Theresa Cattuna, who came in 64th.

“I was watching the O.S.C.A.R.S. highlight video a few days ago, and I started getting teary when I saw the clips of our team-racing together, praying together and celebrating together,” Watson said.

The Irish say goodbye to nine seniors on the men’s side and four on the women’s. Leaving the men are Abernathy, Carter, Jackson, Gamboa, Noel and Springer, along with Kyle Higdon, Ryan Jacobs and Kevin Labus, who mainly run relays for track. The women bid farewell to Cattuna and Watson, along with Abby Higgins and Marissa Treece, both of whom primarily trained as middle-distance track runners.