ND Cross Country
Notre Dame set for NCAA regionals
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, November 10, 2016
When Notre Dame competes in the NCAA regional championships on Friday in Madison, Wisconsin, it will be in familiar territory.
The Irish women’s team hopes to make the NCAA championship for the second straight year after finishing eighth place overall last year behind a title-winning performance from Molly Seidel.
This year, sophomore Anna Rohrer leads the Irish into November coming off of a first-place finish in the ACC championships. Notre Dame as a whole finished second behind North Carolina State, and Irish assistant head coach Matthew Sparks said he feels his team has strong momentum heading into Madison.
“What was so encouraging about [the ACC championship] was to be as close as we were to N.C. State, who is one of the top five teams in the country,” Sparks said. “We still feel like we have a lot of potential to get better.”
Joining Rohrer with solid showings at the ACC meet were sophomores Anna Heffernan and Rachel DaDamio and senior Lexi Pelletier, who finished sixth, 38th and 23rd, respectively.
“Five runners score and if you don’t have five competitive, talented people, your team is not going to be as successful as you like,” Sparks said. “[Pelletier and DaDamio] are two we expect, not just to be in our top five, but to be competitive. They had really competitive track seasons last spring and they’re gaining fitness as the weeks go by.”
For the Irish, the goal is to secure their spot in the NCAA championship meet by grabbing an automatic qualifying spot.
“Going into the regional meet, one of the team goals is to finish in the top-two, those are the automatic qualifying spots for the national meet,” Sparks said. “Finishing in the top-two would be of the utmost importance to make sure we get in the national meet, if we’re not in the top two, there’s still at-large opportunities to qualify.”
Sparks pointed to a trio of Michigan schools as Notre Dame’s main competitors in Madison. Michigan is currently ranked No. 5 in the nation, and the Wolverines are joined by No. 13 Eastern Michigan and No. 22 Michigan State. Notre Dame sits at No. 14 after the conference championships.
With the eighth-place finish to close out last year, Sparks said making a second-consecutive NCAA championship is a goal of the program and would put Notre Dame in elite company.
“It’s always a program objective to get to the national meet,” Sparks said. “The expectation has now grown to the point of not just making it to the national meet, we have to go there…and always trying to improve on last year. We’re hoping to be in that top-10 at the national level.
“But we have to take this step first this weekend, we obviously don’t want to look to the finals before we make it to the first round.”
The Notre Dame men’s team finished tenth at in the ACC two weekends ago, and Sparks hopes the squad can duplicate that effort this Friday.
“We finished top-10 in the conference. We’d like to continue that trend and finish top-10 in the region,” Sparks said. “That’s going to be contingent upon [sophomore] Anthony Williams’ race, but also [seniors] Chris Marco and Jake Dumford. Our senior captains have to step up and be the leaders that we expect them to be.”
The Irish will race Friday at 1 p.m. on the Zimmer Championship Course in Madison.