ND Cross Country
Seidel, Rohrer take top two spots at Regional race
Marek Mazurek | Tuesday, November 17, 2015
For the second straight meet, All-American senior Molly Seidel and freshman Anna Rohrer finished first and second in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional to lead the women’s team to a second place overall finish and an automatic berth in the NCAA Championships.
“They’re just confident people,” Irish assistant head coach Matthew Sparks said of the pair. “It’s championship season and when elite-level people are confident, that’s a hard combination to match. The talent and confidence is all there at the same time for both these two.”
Sparks said Seidel, who finished the six kilometer race in 20:04.4, benefits from having Rohrer, who finished in 20:18.4, around to push her during training and on race day.
“I think it’s a real tribute to Molly,” Sparks said. “[She is] a senior that knows what it takes to be successful and she knows how helpful it is to have a teammate to work with throughout workouts and throughout races. She’s always doing what she can to help teammates have success.”
Behind Seidel and Rohrer, the women had their top five runners finish within the top 30 spots with freshman Rachel DaDamio finishing 21st, graduate student Karen Lesiewicz finishing 27th and freshman Annie Heffernan finishing 28th. Sparks said a top-30 showing from Heffernan is what put the women’s team over the top in the regional meet.
“That’s something we’ve been looking for all season long: our fifth runner to step up and contribute right there with our third and fourth [runners],” Sparks said. “And Annie, in practice, has been doing that. She just had some breathing issues when she got into races and we’ve got that under control. We just need another performance like that out of her at the national meet.”
With the second-place finish, the Irish finished behind Michigan but edged out defending national champion Michigan State, which finished third. Sparks said beating the Spartans will give the team confidence.
“Michigan and Michigan State, the two teams we competed with, are two of the top teams year-in and year-out in the country,” Sparks said. “Michigan State won the NCAA title last year and we beat them. The girls on the team know that and they respect those programs, and for them to do that lets them know that we’re at the right place at the right time as far as competing when it matters.”
Though the women received an automatic berth in the NCAA Championships, the men finished fourth at the Great Lakes Regional and did not qualify for an at-large selection. Though the season is over for the men’s team, Sparks said the fourth place finish will give the team momentum for next year.
“[The fourth place finish] was a big step in the right direction,” Sparks said. “The men were picked ninth going into that race. It gave the guys some respect points throughout the collegiate cross country world that we are one of the better programs in the country. We missed out this year … but we return our entire top seven [runners]. Both [seniors] Michael [Clevenger] and Tim Ball have a fifth year of eligibility … It sets us up for a good 2016.”
And while the men’s team did not make the championships, standout Michael Clevenger will be competing as an individual at the championship meet for the second straight year following a third place finish with a time of 30:21.5. Sparks said that Clevenger has done a lot for the team, both on the course and in the locker room.
“[Clevenger] is the guy, when it comes time to race, who is always up front,” Sparks said. “He’s the guy that runs the locker room as well. I think the component to have a successful team is when you’ve got the same guy leading things in the locker room that’s leading things on the course.”
Saturday, the women will head to Louisville, Kentucky, for the NCAA Championships. Last season, the Irish came away in 29th place behind an All-American performance from Seidel. This year, however, Sparks has his eyes on a bigger result.
“We’d like to be in the top 15,” Sparks said. “I think we’re ranked somewhere in that ballpark. If we put it all together we can maybe be top 10, and we’d like to have two All-Americans in that group.”
The NCAA Championships will take place Saturday at 12:00 p.m. for the women and 1:00 p.m. for the men.