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ND Cross Country: Teams both finish in top-25 of country

Aaron Sant-Miller | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Both the men’s and women’s squads concluded the season in Terre Haute, Ind., at the NCAA championships in November, where the men pulled off a 24th-place finish and the women claimed the 22nd spot in the nation.

“I think last season was the start of a new really strong era of cross country here at Notre Dame,” Irish junior Jessica Rydberg said.

Irish men’s coach Joe Piane said the old cliché of judging a team by its finish and not its start proved to be true with the squad.

“I think that we performed well,” Piane said. “We got to the national championship, which is always a goal.”

Both team’s abilities to make a mark on the national stage is something that cannot go overlooked, Piane said.

“Now, just to get to the NCAAs you have to be among the top-10 percent of all of the Division I teams in the country, so that’s an accomplishment in itself,” Piane said.

Despite the strong performance and strong finish, to some extent, some felt like there was a certain untapped potential.

“I think the guys would tell you … that we could have run a little bit better,” Piane said. “But, I think we realize that this was great motivation for next year to do even better.”

Irish junior Jeremy Rae echoed Piane’s sentiment.

“We still improved in our performance from two years ago, but we still want to do a lot better than that,” Irish junior Jeremy Rae said. “We need to do a whole lot better than that.”

Of Notre Dame’s top five finishers at the NCAA championships, one only was a senior. Rae said the team has a lot of room for improvement.

“Overall, we were a pretty young team, and I think we’re bringing everybody back with the exception of one person,” Rae said. “So it was kind of a rebuilding year. We should be whole a lot better, just looking at how our team will be next year.”

Rydberg said the young women’s squad made great strides in 2011.

“I think we made a lot of very good improvements over the season,” Rydberg said. “We had a very young team and we took a lot of steps in the right direction, so I think there are a lot of things we can improve on.”

After a strong finish, the Irish are carrying momentum into the 2012 season after a successful 2011 provided crucial experience for a young group.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at [email protected]