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ND Cross Country: Seidel reflects one year later

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, September 17, 2012

The night before last December’s Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego, current freshman Molly Seidel ended her college search.

Within 24 hours, she was a national champion.

“It was really amazing, even almost a year later it’s still kind of a shock to think all that happened,” Seidel said. “It was one of my first really big national races. The year before I had a bad injury and didn’t get the chance to really do as well as I hoped at the regional or qualifiers, so it was such an honor and just such an incredible experience, getting to go out.”

But for Notre Dame women’s coach Tim Connelly, who had known for several weeks that Seidel intended to join his program, his recruit’s first-place finish in the high school national championship meet wasn’t shocking at all.

“I was really happy for Molly because she’d been having a really good season and had worked like crazy, so it was pretty cool for her to be able to finish it off like that,” Connelly said. “The reality is for kids to get to that meet is very, very difficult, so to be able to run it, to be able to win it, is even that much bigger of an accomplishment. But I also knew going in that she was one of the people who was capable of it, so it didn’t come out of left field.”

Although winning a race of 40 of the fastest high school runners in the country was certainly a career highlight, Seidel said that getting to meet such talented runners was one of the best parts of the experience.

“I got to meet a lot of really cool people,” Seidel said. “It’s awesome to meet so many people that cheer you on and it’s cool to meet so many of these people that are running at such a high level.”

As she later found out, three of thoese runners would become her classmates. Freshmen Timothy Ball, Michael Clevenger and Kevin Durham all qualified for the 40-man field and finished 16th, 25th and 37th, respectively.

“We all met at the meet,” Clevenger said. “Kevin, Tim and I all actually hung out at the meet, and we all got to know each other pretty well there.”

At the time of the race, Ball was the only one of the three who had committed to the Irish, and he admitted he tried to convince his new friends to join him once he realized they were interested in the program.

Clevenger said that he and Durham made their decision after they visited South Bend on the same weekend in January.

“It was just awesome to know that the guys who were already here were all really great guys, and I think that’s kind of what attracted all of us here,” Clevenger said. “We knew Tim was coming here already and Kevin and I kind of both decided to come, too, because Notre Dame is an awesome place, and I think we both loved our visits. It just kind of worked out that we all loved it here and decided to come here.”

Now that these four freshmen have arrived on campus, they have to get used to an entirely new dynamic: they were some of the top high school runners in the country, but now they’re not even the top runners on their own team. They agreed, however, it is fun to have teammates who can push them in practice.

“There are so many other guys out there who work as hard as you or even much harder,” Ball said. “It’s crazy because I’m on the bottom of the food chain in college, and there are so many guys who are better than me and it makes you want to work harder to be like them.”

Irish men’s coach Joe Piane has the utmost confidence that these runners will catch up to their older teammates.

“I kind of ease into training with the freshmen, but so far they’ve handled it exceptionally well,” Piane said. “They’re all good kids, and they’re all going to help us, if not this year then down the road for sure.”

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]