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ND Cross Country: Irish shine at Invitational

Aaron Sant-Miller | Monday, October 1, 2012

The Irish claimed top-three finishes in both the men’s and the women’s races at the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday. The men claimed third place, the highest finish for the men’s team in the meet since 2007. The women claimed their highest finish since 2003, as they raced to a second-place finish.

“I thought we did well. We certainly helped ourselves in terms of getting an at-large bid for the NCAAs,” Irish men’s coach Joe Piane said. “So, I thought, all in all, it was a pretty good meet.”

Irish women’s coach Tim Connelly was also pleased with his team’s finish.

“The goal was to go out, run hard and see if we couldn’t place really high as a group,” Connelly said. “It was one of those days where everything didn’t go perfectly, but we still just ran hard and competed really well. In the end, we did a really good job of picking up some at-large points. Overall, it was a pretty good day.”

Senior Jeremy Rae led the men’s team and finished sixth overall with a time of 23:46. The Irish also showed their depth with four other finishers in the top 40. Senior J.P. Malette finished 26th  with a time of 24:16, junior Martin Grady finished 35th with a time of 24:21 and senior Jeff MacMillan finished 37th with a time of 24:22. The top finishes for the Irish were rounded out by junior Walter Schafer, who finished 39th with a time of 24:24.

“We clearly had the deepest team there,” Piane said. “So, we’re pretty good. We’re pretty solid.”

For the women, the team flashed an impressive balance of talent and depth as well, with four Irish runners finishing in the top 25. Junior Kelly Curran, who finished 15th with a time of 17:02, led the Irish. Not far behind Curran was senior Rebecca Tracy. Tracy finished with a time of 17:03, claiming 18th place. Freshman Danielle Aragon and sophomore Gabby Gonzales were separated by only a second as well, as they finished 22nd and 24th, respectively, with times of 17:10 and 17:11.

“I thought we had a lot of people that ran really well. We weren’t firing on all five cylinders [with junior Alexa Aragon out], but we competed really well and raced really hard,” Connelly said. “We’re the type of team that is going to have to have a pretty small margin from runners one to five. Our gap was small on Friday, but I think we can do even better than that.”

Connelly was impressed with the young Aragon’s performance.

“She’s been a very good middle-distance athlete, more so than a cross country runner. I’ve seen the way she’s been training for the last month, so I knew she should do well in cross country,” Connelly said. “I asked her to go out and do everything she does every day in workouts.

“I think she did a great job. I think she proved to herself in a pretty tough college race that she can be very successful in cross country, too.”

In addition to the blue race of top Division I teams, the Invitational hosted the gold race, in which talented runners from Division I, II and II had a chance to showcase their talents. Again, the Irish put their depth on display, as the men claimed a fifth-place finish and the women cruised to another second-place showing.

“The goal with that race is to put those athletes in a position where they are counted on,” Connelly said. “We wanted to give them experience being in a position where their teammates were counting on them. We then had five people do really well with that.”

The Irish return to action in two weeks when they head to Madison, Wis., on Oct. 12 for the star-studded Wisconsin Invitational.

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at [email protected]