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ND Cross Country: Small senior class leads Irish squad

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, September 5, 2012


The Irish didn’t always have such a small class of 2013. 

Eight athletes joined the team as freshmen in the fall of 2009, but one by one, runners fell from the pack and the remaining seniors have dwindled to three.

But that may not be so bad.

“We see eye-to-eye on just about everything, so there’s not too much discord in trying to figure out how we want to present our goals and our attitude,” senior Rebecca Tracy said. “Because there’s only three of us, there’s less conflict of opinion.”

Angela Ryck, who along with Jessica Rydberg rounds out the team’s senior leadership, agrees with that assessment.

“Just being on the same page from the start has been helpful,” Ryck said. “Last year we had seven seniors, and there was definitely some difference of opinion between them. So having just the three of us has made it really great because there’s no confusion that gets passed down to the underclassmen like there was in past years.”

Although past upperclassmen didn’t always pass on the same advice, Tracy and Ryck say all their older classmates helped them develop over the past three years.

“The seniors in general are usually great for the underclassmen to just watch and learn from,” Ryck said. “Even if they’re not constantly telling, they’re demonstrating. So I think that’s one of the real strengths of our team, that every year no matter who they are or how many [seniors we have], we don’t feel like we’re in a deficit.”

Both Ryck and Tracy singled out 2011 graduate Erica Watson as an upperclassman who helped them as younger runners.

“I think Erica Watson probably had the biggest effect on me as an upperclassman to an underclassman” Tracy said. “Just the way she was able to pick people out after workouts for the positive things they had done, just the little accomplishments. Little things like that really made a difference to me when I was an underclassman.”

But even the most supportive upperclassmen couldn’t convince every struggling underclassman to stick with the team. Some no longer wanted to balance hours of schoolwork with hours of training, some couldn’t avoid injuries while training at the level required for Division I competition and some decided that they had other interests that they would rather devote their time to.

“I think what kept the three of us around is that we never really gave ourselves the option – it never occurred to us to not compete here,” Ryck said. “The other two seniors, they’ve been top competitors for us from the start, and freshman year I felt so in-over-my-head, and I felt like I was the slowest person on the team – and I was one of the slower people – but it just never really occurred to me to quit.”

Tracy, Ryck and Rydberg haven’t often trained as a group due to their differing strengths as runners, but their shared attitudes have carried them through three years of running together.

“Traditionally we’ve run in different groups: Jessica’s a 10k runner, Angela’s more of an 800 runner and I’ve been somewhere in the middle,” Tracy said. “But I think we each have the same level of commitment and the same love for what we do. I think that’s an unspoken, shared thing, how much we love what we’re doing and we want to share it with everyone else.”

The seniors will lead the way as Notre Dame prepares for the National Catholic Championship, its first home meet of the year, on Sept. 14.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]