ND Cross Country
Irish ready for season-opening Crusader Open
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Notre Dame opens its 2016 season Friday with a trip to Valparaiso, Indiana, to compete in the Crusader Open.
Last year, the Irish placed second to Purdue in both the men’s and the women’s team events in the meet, but Irish associate head coach Matthew Sparks said results are the most important part of the Crusader Open and added that the Irish will look to use this meet to prepare for more intense meets in the future.
“Each meet throughout the season builds upon itself,” Sparks said. “So the Valparaiso meet next week is very small, and we almost look at it as an exhibition type of event. The National Catholic is a huge meet, with close to 50 teams competing — but a lot of Division II and Division III schools — so it gives a lot of the unproven kids the chance to step into a collegiate meet without being overly competitive.
“And then the Joe Piane Invitational will be the most competitive meet in the country that weekend with 12 of the top-25 teams in the country competing on both sides. So it’s neat to have that level of competition on our course early in the year.”
Graduate student Sydni Meuiner echoed Sparks’ sentiments and said the Crusader Open is an opportunity for the more inexperienced runners to get their pre-race routines set.
“Every time that you can lace up your spikes and be on the starting line, it’s definitely good experience,” Meuiner said. “Whether it’s figuring out your pregame meal or what your optimal pre-race routine is or running in a pack and running together — which is really what you’re going to see on Friday — it’s all going to add up in the end, and it’s going to give you something to learn from, good or bad.”
On the men’s side, Timothy Ball and All-American Michael Clevenger led last year’s team, but both have graduated, and Sparks said this year’s team will look to a strong freshmen class for depth, in addition to the leadership of seniors Chris Marco and Jacob Dumford.
“We’ve got three freshmen in Kevin Salvano, Sean Kurdy and Ryan Schweizer that we think can step up and really contribute,” Sparks said. “It’s going to be a much different look, whereas Mike Clevenger was an All-American last year [and] graduated and he was a great team leader for us the last couple years, but we feel we’ve got a couple leaders in Dumford and Marco to carry that leadership weight and weight up front as far as the competitive side. I feel those guys can fill that void that [Ball] and [Clevenger] left.”
The women’s squad also must replace All-American and national champion Molly Seidel, who led the team to a top-10 team finish at last year’s NCAA championships. And though Seidel is gone, Sparks said he will look to sophomores Anna Rohrer, Rachel DaDamio and Annie Heffernan to step up and fifth-year seniors Sydni Meunier and Danielle Aragon to lead the team.
“We’ve got Anna [Rohrer], who was sixth in the country last year, and then Rachel DaDamio is another sophomore that’s been running really well for us and Annie Heffernan,” he said. “So we’ve got a good sophomore group who aren’t quite ready to step into the leadership roles, but we’ve been blessed to hold onto a couple of our fifth-year seniors that are sticking around for another cross country season.”
The meet will begin Friday at 5 p.m. with the women’s race and then continue with the men’s event immediately after.