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ND Cross Country: Irish head to ACC Champs

Alex Wilcox | Friday, November 1, 2013

After a trying regular season for the cross-country team, Notre Dame will look to begin anew in the postseason with this weekend’s ACC Conference Championship.
Despite early season struggles and nagging health issues on the women’s side, Irish coach Tim Connelly said he believes his team is finally ready to pull it all together.
“Are we where I hoped we would be September 1? No,” Connelly said. “But again I think we set ourselves up to have a really good postseason. … Going into the conference I think we’ve got a realistic shot of being a top three team there, going to the regional meet I think we’ve got a great shot of being a team that moves on to the national meet, and I’ve think we’ve set ourselves up to be a team that runs really well and finishes high at the national meet. That’s what you use the regular season for.”
On the men’s side, head coach Joe Piane seemed equally relieved to have gotten through the regular season.
“Well those meets are over but now the championship season starts,” Piane said. “[The season] was ok, not great but ok. We’ve done what we needed to do to get an at-large bid if we don’t automatically qualify, so that’s a positive. This weekend is a big help for us to get a bid, because there’s a few teams there that we need to beat.”
In order to beat those teams, Piane said he needs more production from the end of his lineup.
“We’ve got to have a better five, six, and seven,” Piane said. “If we do that we’re going to get much better, and I guarantee you that everyone can run better than they did at the Wisconsin Invitational, there’s no doubt in my mind. And if you ask them they’ll say the same thing.”
Connelly said he isn’t looking for anything specific, but that he wants his girls to be mentally tougher during the race.
“It’s the whole, ‘When I get in a race and things get tough, how do I deal with that?'” Connelly said.” I think we still need to grow a little bit as competitors and do a little better job at responding. That’s basically where we have to get better. If you want to be a really good cross-country runner, that’s where it comes. It’s that toughness, that deep down mentality.”
Since this is Notre Dame’s first year in the ACC, this is the first ACC Championship they will compete in.
“It’s just a different set of really good teams,” Connelly said. “I don’t know if the actual running part changes a lot, but again I’ve been saying all along, we basically traded one really good conference for another. I don’t think we’ve changed our approach, it’s a championship meet so we’re going out there to be the best that we can be.”
Despite the increased competition level the Irish will run against, Connelly said this conference meet might actually prove to be less daunting than several regular season meets due to the smaller number of runners.
“It’s a really big meet, but in terms of logistics it’s probably a lot simpler than running at the Notre Dame Invitational or running at Wisconsin because now we’re running against 15 teams as opposed to 36,” Connelly said. “So in terms of our competition, it’s not nearly as complicated to find who you want to beat and find your teammates.”
Piane said this race is important for a variety of reasons. It is an opportunity to prove themselves in the ACC, rack up coveted at-large points, and springboard the Irish into a deep postseason run.
“[The meet] is very important,” Piane said. “It goes back to getting the at-large points, that’s very important, and I think it’s something we’ve been looking for and getting ready for quite a long time. Since the announcement that we’re going to the ACC, this is our first opportunity, so it sure would be nice to start with a good showing. I think it’s very important to [our runners], and if we do well there, then it would bode well for the regional meet and then, God willing, the nationals. Everything builds towards this.”
Notre Dame will race in the ACC Conference Championship on Friday at 10 a.m. in Kernersville, N. C.

Contact Alex Wilcox at [email protected]