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Cross Country: ND hosts invitational

By Joe Wirth | Friday, September 14, 2012

The Irish men and women are hoping to benefit from some home cooking this weekend as they participate in the National Catholic Championships on Friday – their first home meet of the season.

This is the 33rd running of the National Catholic Championships and the Irish have dominated the event throughout its history. Notre Dame has won the team event 22 times and has had 12 individual winners. This year they are trying to make it four straight team titles.

The men’s and women’s teams notched second-place finishes in their previous outings at the Crusader Open in Valparaiso, Ind., two weeks ago. Although the Irish did not win the meet, many young runners gained experience.

With the Notre Dame Invitational looming in two weeks, Irish coach Joe Piane said this meet is for the older runners to get into the flow of the season.

“The meet at Valparaiso was for some of our inexperienced runners to get their feet wet,” Piane said. “This week is for the older guys like [senior] Jeremy Rae and [junior] Walter Schafer to get their feet wet.

“Cross country is just like other sports; runners need some warm-ups and scrimmages before they can really hit their stride and perform at a high level.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams come into this meet ranked in the top-25 and are both expecting high finishes on their home track.

“I think having a meet at home gives us a big advantage,” Piane said. “The kids are familiar with the track and we do not have to put up with the hassles involved with traveling.”

The Irish will have plenty of competition as the race includes a 34-team field, with 13 Division I programs.

On the men’s side, Shafer and [junior] Martin Grady both finished in the top-five last year and are hoping for an even better performance this year, while senior Jessica Rydberg is looking to defend her title in the women’s race.

The race will begin Friday at 4:15 p.m. with the women’s 5K race and will be followed by the men’s five-mile race at approximately 5 p.m. Both races will take place at Warren Golf Course.

Contact Joe Wirth at