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ND Cross Country: Irish qualify for NCAA Championships

A.J. Godeaux | Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Notre Dame punched its ticket to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., with third and fourth place finishes at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet this weekend from the Irish men and women, respectively.
In the selection process for the Championship meet, the top two finishers in each region earn automatic bids, normally leaving teams outside the top two uncertain about their National Championship prospects. Irish Coach Tim Connolly said that was hardly the case for his team.
“You’re always worried a little bit, just based on what happens in other regions,” Connolly said. “Given how the selection process works, though, we knew we’d be alright as long as we finished in the top four. There were a lot of regions where we’d beaten the teams that got the automatic bids, so we knew we were set up pretty well.”
Senior Kelly Curran led the way for the Irish women with a third place finish, crossing the finish line at 20:14. Senior Alexa Aragon (20:49) finished 20th, while sophomore Molly Seidel (21:11) and junior Gabby Gonzales (21:18) finished seconds apart in 33rd and 37th place, respectively.
“We had a couple girls run good races,” Connolly said. “Kelly, of course, ran a really good race. She’s been probably our most consistent runner … I was also impressed again with how Molly ran, considering she was out for a month with a training injury. She keeps getting more and more fit.”
However, Connolly said the team as a whole will have to run a better race if the Irish want to be competitive at the NCAA Championships.
“There are just a few girls right now who aren’t where we thought they’d be,” Connolly said. “That, and we need to do a better job of finding each other early in the race and then fighting over the last half. This weekend we did a decent job of finding each other, but I was a little disappointed with how we finished.”
No. 14 Michigan and No. 9 Butler earned the automatic bids with their first and second place finishes, while No. 6 Michigan State, which also earned an at-large bid, took third.
For the Irish men, the race was exceptionally close, with the top three finishers separated by just four points.
“[The race] was our best team race of the season,” Irish junior Jake Kildoo said.
No. 16 Michigan joined its women’s team atop the podium with 70 points, while No. 19 Wisconsin and 21st-ranked Notre Dame finished with 73 and 74 points, respectively, for second and third place.
“We very well could have won,” Kildoo said. “Still, this will definitely give us some momentum through the next week of practice and going into NCAA’s. If we can turn in a race like this, we’ll be able to compete for a top-10 to top-15 finish.”
The Irish had five finishers in the top-30, led by graduate student Jeremy Rae’s (30:22) fifth-place finish and senior Martin Grady’s (30:27) sixth-place effort. Graduate student J.P. Malette (30:42) followed in 15th, while sophomore Michael Clevenger (30:55) finished 22nd. Kildoo (31:10) rounded out the top Irish finishers with a 27th place effort.
“I think we all just ran very focused and tough, which made the difference,” Kildoo said. “We were confident if we did that we’d we would get into NCAA’s.”
The Irish travel to Terre Haute, Ind. on Saturday for the NCAA Championships meet, held at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
Contact A.J. Godeaux at [email protected]