ND Cross Country
Rohrer headlines Irish success
Joe Everett | Friday, May 19, 2017
In a season of ups and downs, improvement and stagnation and accomplishments and disappointment, the Notre Dame cross country team found a lot of things to celebrate, and conversely, to grow from and build off of in 2016.
After graduating not only their best runners, but the true leaders on the team, the Irish found themselves needing to fill some pretty big shoes on both squads. Irish associate head coach Matt Sparks commented that while the men’s side struggled to accomplish that task in 2016, the future looks brighter.
“On the men’s side, we lost our two front-runners and senior leaders in Timothy Ball and Michael Clevenger from the previous season, and the seniors this year struggled a bit to fill that void,” Sparks said. “Tony Williams really improved throughout the year and we’re excited about what he can do. This season we had a really young group, and it didn’t pan out in the 2016 season like we hoped, but with a lot of our guys returning, we feel pretty good about where we’re at moving forward.”
The Irish caught a glimpse of said promising future at the ACC championships in late October, where the young men’s team surprised with a 10th-place finish. Williams, a rising junior, led the way for the Irish in the 8K, finishing in 28th place with a personal record of 24:02.1.
However, it was the women’s team that grabbed most of the headlines throughout the year for the Irish. Despite graduating national champion Molly Seidel the year before, the Irish had several runners who rose to the occasion throughout the season.
“On the women’s side, there were a lot of uncertainties coming into the season without Molly,” Sparks said. “The leadership duties were picked up by Dani [Aragon], and the performance aspect was largely picked by Anna [Rohrer]. [Sophomore] Annie Heffernan in particular made significant strides and really improved from her freshman year – she and Dani, who we didn’t expect as much from coming into the year, really helped solidify our team performance.”
Aragon came back from an injury suffered at the end of outdoor track to lead the way for the women’s team, on and off the course. The fifth-year grad student, who earned All-ACC as well as All-Region honors and finished 52nd individually at the NCAA championship, reflected upon the season, her role within it, and what made the Irish successful.
“We were able to gradually build throughout the year, and overall I thought we had a pretty special season,” Aragon said. “I’ve never been the best runner, but I’m always trying to encourage my teammates. It’s not just me — we have a lot of great leaders on this team — and their attitude rubs off on myself and others and makes us all better.”
With the absence of Seidel, the burden of star athlete and number one runner fell to Anna Rohrer, and the sophomore from Mishawaka took it in stride. Rohrer finished first the Notre Dame Invitational and ACC championships, was runner-up at the NCAA regionals, and finished third at the NCAA championships. Her performance garnered her the ACC Performer of the Year, and Aragon commented on the all-around growth she saw from Rohrer throughout the season.
“I think Anna has grown tremendously in several ways,” Aragon said. “Not only physically as a runner, but mentally as far as handling her studies, building her confidence and growing as a leader on the team. Her growth shows not only at the meets but also by her presence on the team every day.”
With many areas to build off of in 2016, Notre Dame looks to carry this attitude of growth into next season. With Rohrer and Heffernan returning on the women’s side and Williams leading an increasingly experienced men’s side, next season looks to be another successful one for Notre Dame cross country.