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ND Cross Country

Irish cruise to victory in Crusader open

| Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On Friday in Valparaiso, Indiana, Notre Dame put forth an impressive performance to open its 2016 season, defeating host Valparaiso in the Crusader Open at the Sunset Hills Park course.

The Irish, who have started the season at Valparaiso for the past 14 years, ran to the tune of a perfect score on both sides, with both the men’s and women’s teams finishing in the top five spots. Associate head coach Matt Sparks said it was a good way for his team to build confidence.

Irish sophomore Annie Heffernan races in the 2015 National Catholic Invitational on Sept. 18. Sarah Olson | The Observer
Irish sophomore Annie Heffernan races in the 2015 National Catholic Invitational on Sept. 18.

“The [Valparaiso] meet in our minds is more of a practice meet — an exhibition,” Sparks said. “We see where people have developed over the summer and give some of the younger kids who usually don’t run in the varsity position a chance to contribute to a team win.”

Therefore, at a low stakes meet, Sparks said the women’s team strategy was to run as a pack the entire race. They thus crossed the finish line together as a group, with sophomore Annie Heffernan finishing first for the Irish in 18:47.7, with junior Sydney Foreman, graduate student Danielle Aragon, sophomore Rachel DaDamio and junior Kaitlin Frei finishing right behind her to round out the top five.

“Kaitlin Frei was someone who hadn’t spent much time running in our top five, but she’s made some significant improvements as a walk-on athlete who’s gonna run in our top nine once we get into the championship time of the year,” Sparks said. “Sydney Foreman is another one that’s really come a long way in her two years here … so we’re excited for those two juniors.”

The men’s team replicated the women’s feat with a perfect score of their own in the six kilometer race, while also employing the pack running strategy. Junior Billy Dolan finished first for the men’s team, posting a time of 19:29.23. The Mullica Hill, New Jersey, native was followed by sophomore Anthony Williams, senior Jacob Dumford, freshman Kevin Salvano, junior John Flannery, junior Kirk Hansen and senior Grant Koch.

“We ran [Kevin Salvano] in uniform which is a really unique thing – a freshman having a major role after transitioning from a 5K … to an 8K or 10K – and he looked very controlled in helping leading the men’s team this weekend,” Sparks said. “We’ve got a really talented group of men, but they’re more guys that excel in the mile, so getting guys like [Billy] Dolan, Jacob Dumford … to be able to stretch that out over a five mile cross country race is great to see.”

With four regular season meets on the horizon, Sparks commented on how the Crusader Open was a nice building block for the team moving forward.

“It’s a miniature version of the whole season,” Sparks said. “We travel a little bit, but not too much; we run a race, but not nearly what we compete in at the championship time. It just introduces the season in one short day.”

Notre Dame will host its next meet, the National Catholic Invitational, on September 16. This signature meet will host over 30 schools from across the country, highlighted by Dayton, DePaul, and Saint Louis, and will take place at 3:30 p.m. at Burke Golf Course.

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a senior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. In addition to formerly serving as Sports Editor at The Observer, Joe is a RA in Stanford Hall and a past champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

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