ND Cross Country
Seidel leads women to NCAA championships
Marek Mazurek | Friday, May 15, 2015
In 2014, the Irish overcame the uncertainty of a new coach early in the year to qualify the women’s team for the NCAA championships and earn an All-American honors for junior Molly Seidel.
Head coach Matthew Sparks was hired by head track and field coach Alan Turner to lead the distance runners just a few weeks before the fall season started. He said it took him a while to get to know the team and what each runner required from the coaching staff.
“I’d say [arriving late] was the biggest challenge, not just for me, but for the entire squad,” Sparks said. “It took probably the first month for us to get to know each other, and part of that getting to know each other process was learning what each individual athlete needed to be successful. Once we got into the championship part of the season, we had a level of comfort with each other that I think really pushed us in the late season.”
Though the team chemistry may have been lacking early in the year, the results were not. The men’s team finished first and second at the Crusader Open and the National Catholic Championships respectively, and the women finished first in the National Catholic Championships.
At the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 3, the men finished 14th and the women finished third. Seidel said it was a confidence boost for the team to do well on its home course.
“Being able to race well at the ND invite, at our home course, that was a really special race,” Seidel said. “For me, my family comes down and you’re surrounded by all your friends. It’s something really cool to be able to race at home and to do well there. That was definitely a high point in the season.”
After stumbling at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational — both teams finished 30th — the Irish rebounded and were able to send the women’s team to the NCAA championships in Terre Haute, Indiana for the fourth straight year.
The team finished in 29th place and Seidel finished 19th overall with a time of 20 minutes, 23.4 seconds to earn her first All-American scroll. Despite only earning an at-large bid, Sparks said he thought the team let an opportunity slip by at the championship.
“You always look at things critically,” Sparks said. “You always look at things and wonder, ‘If this had happened, how much better could we have been?’ I think we can always be a little bit better.”
Sparks said he was proud of how hard Seidel worked throughout the season to become an All-American.
“It was fun to watch the confidence grow in Molly throughout the three-month cross country season,” Sparks said. “Literally week after week, you could see it every day at practice and every competition, the confidence grow.”
Though the men’s team did not qualify for the NCAA championships, junior Michael Clevenger competed individually and finished 92nd with a time of 31 minutes, 29.9 seconds.