ND Cross Country
Irish women advance to NCAA finals for second consecutive year
Joe Everett | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The Notre Dame women’s team secured itself an automatic berth in the NCAA championships with a second-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional Championship on Friday at the Zimmer Championship Course in Madison, Wisconsin.
In a pack of 32 teams, the Irish women finished second at regional championships for the second straight year. Their 91 total team points only trailed Michigan, who scored 61. The Irish were led by sophomore Anna Rohrer (19:35.7), who finished runner-up in the regional championships for the second straight season. Last year, Rohrer finished behind teammate Molly Seidel, and this time, she finished behind Michigan senior Erin Finn (19:27.8).
Sophomore Annie Heffernan and grad student Danielle Aragon also finished in the Top-25 for Notre Dame at 10th and 13th respectively, and the pair joined Rohrer in receiving All-Region honors. Sophomore Rachel DaDamio, who finished in 29th, and junior Lexi Pelletier, who finished 37th, rounded out the top-five for the women’s team. Irish associate head coach Matthew Sparks said his team accomplished exactly what it set out to do on Friday.
“The women’s team met our expectations,” Sparks said. “Our goal going into the meet was to finish top-two and secure an automatic qualifying spot. You never want to leave the meet not knowing if you’re in or not, and the women did it.”
The Irish barely edged out Wisconsin (97), Michigan State (97), and Eastern Michigan (102) for the second automatic qualifying spot, and Sparks credits his team’s ability to track down runners toward the end of the race.
“They really closed the door in the last kilometer,” Sparks said. “We were third or fourth as a team much of the race, so we really had to make a hard push to secure that second-place spot. Our top three ran especially well, just like they did at the ACC meet, and [DaDamio] and [Pelletier] are improving — we just need them to continue to close the gap on [Heffernan and Aragon].”
The men’s team, on the other hand, recorded a lackluster 14th place finish to end their season, which Sparks noted has been a constant throughout the year.
“On the men’s side, as the status quo of the season, we got off to a rough start and really never got our confidence going like we had a year ago,” Sparks said. “We ran a lot of young guys, so they hopefully gained some experience from the year.”
A bright spot on the men’s team is that three freshman participated for the Irish — something that Sparks said he sees as an unfortunate consequence due to a variety of factors, but nevertheless could turn out to be a positive down the road.
“We ended up losing, for various reasons, four of our top five from last year,” Sparks said. “Two from graduation and two from injuries, so things look a lot different than they did a year ago at this time. The two injuries popped up at the start of the year, so we had a lot of guys that we didn’t expect to have to contribute, have to try to step up and do things out of their comfort zone. It’s a little bit like watching Notre Dame football this year — guys playing in positions they didn’t expect to be playing and contributing in — but they gained experience from it all, and we’ll grow from that.”
The Irish women will compete in the NCAA championships at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Lavern Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Indiana.