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ND Cross Country

Irish women place first at National Catholic Invitational

| Monday, September 18, 2017

The 38th National Catholic Invitational saw the Notre Dame women’s team clinch its 11th straight meet title, while the men’s squad posted a second-consecutive second place finish Friday at Burke Golf Course.

The defending championship from last year’s National Catholic Invitational, Annie Heffernan was again the individual winner of the women’s varsity race, as the junior crossed the finish line in a time of 17:29.4. Right behind her was freshman Anna Sophia Keller, who earned a second place finish in just her second collegiate race with a time of 17:31.8. Also scoring for the women’s team were junior Rachel DaDamio (sixth, 18:00.3), senior Kaitlin Frei (seventh, 18:04.9) and freshman Claudia Magnussen (18th, 18:25.5). Irish associate head coach Matt Sparks said he was particularly pleased with his top two runners, but commented that the Irish can be better as a group.

“It was exciting to see Annie Heffernan win,” Sparks said. “Her confidence is growing week by week. She had a sickness at the end of outdoor track that kept her out of the major competitions, so to have her back is exciting. The thing we’re especially excited about is Anna Sophia Keller — in her first competitive race to finish right behind Annie was a good step for her. We just need to get our three, four and five in a much more competitive place with those front two.”

On the men’s side, freshman Yared Nuguse led the way for Notre Dame, placing second overall in the varsity race with a time of 25:00.8. Senior co-captain Kevin Pulliam (fifth, 23:23.3), graduate student Bradley Wattleworth (eighth, 25:28.1), freshman Vincent Zona (12th, 25:38.6) and sophomore Tyler Keslin (17th, 25:56.9) also contributed to the men’s score (44 points), as the squad just missed out on the championship behind Dayton (41 points). Sparks commented on what he liked from the men’s team and where they can improve.

“Yared Nuguse in his first 8K of his college career came out with a lot of confidence, kept building throughout the race, and had a big strong finish at the end,” Sparks said. “We’re really excited about the direction he’s trending. Another freshman who stepped up and ran well was [Vincent] Zona. Still looking for some of the upperclassmen to assert themselves, we gotta get Brent Kennedy back out there … and once they’re healthy the confidence can hopefully continue to grow.”

Absent from the long list of Notre Dame competitors was star junior Anna Rohrer, who is currently battling injuries. Sparks gave an update on Rohrer’s current health.

“She’s training, but she’s still a bit limited from aches and pains that she had from the end of track season, so we’re bringing her along slowly and I’m not sure when she’s going to make her debut, if she will, this cross country season.”

With Rohrer appearing to likely miss significant time, the rest of women’s team will be tasked with stepping up in her absence. Sparks said that although the women’s team didn’t have its best performance yesterday, the Irish should still field a very competitive group as the season progresses.

“We still have a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together,” Sparks said. “Jess Harris was somebody who had a little heat issue yesterday … but expect that once the weather cools down she’ll be much more competitive — she’s somebody that can run in our top two. For Rachel DaDamio, she was injured all of indoor and outdoor track, so this was her first race in ten months. Once we get those two back in the mix and running competitively, I feel like we’ll be a much different looking team going forward to the Notre Dame Invitational and beyond.”

Up next, Notre Dame will compete against its toughest field of the season when it returns to action at the Joe Piane Invitational at 2 p.m. on Sept. 29 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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