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ND Cross Country

Veterans help Notre Dame at Joe Piane Invitational

| Monday, October 2, 2017

Notre Dame hosted the Joe Piane Invitational Friday afternoon — a competition that drew quality teams from across the country to the Burke Golf Course.

The Irish placed 13th in the women’s blue 5,000m race with a score of 309 points, and were led by junior Annie Heffernan, who finished 24th with a time of 16:50.5. Behind her, freshman Anna Sophia Keller earned 43rd place with a time of 17:12.5. Irish associate head coach Matt Sparks commented of the women’s side, who were hampered on Friday by senior Jessica Harris’ inability to finish the race.

Irish sophomore Dustin Macuiba competes in the Joe Piane Invitational on Friday at Notre Dame's Burke Golf Course.Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish sophomore Dustin Macuiba competes in the Joe Piane Invitational on Friday at Notre Dame’s Burke Golf Course.

“Annie Heffernan did a good job leading the way for us again,” Sparks said. “We just need to get a few girls healthy and a few girls believing that they can be cross country runners. It’s a unique sport in that it brings a lot of different track events together, and Jessica Harris is somebody that’s really excelled for us on the track — we just need to continue to work with her and be patient and try to convince her that she can be a force to help us in cross country.”

In the men’s 5 mile blue race, the Irish placed 17th overall with a score of 433 points and were led by senior Kevin Pulliam, who crossed the finish line in 24:44.3 to earn 64th place. Closely behind was freshman Yared Nuguse, who placed 70th with a time of 24:52.8.

“We’re finally starting to see some of the senior, veteran leadership step up,” Sparks said on the team’s performance. “Kevin Pulliam ran well and asserted himself, but just couldn’t pull any of the younger guys along with him. The big question mark for the men all season has been: How are the freshmen and transfer guys going to adapt to a new environment? I think the sheer competitiveness of the race got to Yared Nuguse — he’s been our number one guy these past two weeks — and he’s still training well, I think he just got a little bit overwhelmed. He knows he can run with Kevin.”

Overall, Sparks believes his teams can improve, and will use these upcoming two weeks of practice to get over some tactical and psychological barriers.

“One of the things that we struggled with from an X’s and O’s standpoint today on the women’s side was we just didn’t get out very fast,” Sparks said. “We got a little bit overwhelmed in the first 800 meters, so we had to spend the entire race playing catch-up. So, work on a little bit of our leg speed so we can absorb the shock of that first fast start, and also just being more confident — knowing that we can run with some of the people that we weren’t competitive with today. On the men’s side, I think it’s still just a confidence game with a lot of the younger guys. They’re training well — it’s just putting it into practice come race day.”

While the Irish may not have performed up to expectations, Sparks noted that the rest of the field was extremely competitive and the atmosphere was electric at points — highlighting the importance and magnitude of the Joe Piane Invitational.

“It was pretty cool, especially on the women’s side, to see those two teams in Colorado and New Mexico that I know are going to battle away for a national championship in six weeks,” Sparks said. “Arkansas and NC State being a conference rival here as well. I was talking with Coach Piane who coached here for 39 years, and he couldn’t get over how competitive, especially on the women’s side, things were. Colorado and Arkansas both have a home cross country meet tomorrow, and it’s a testament to what this meet is that they skip their own meet to come here to race on Friday. I think that was pretty cool.”

Notre Dame will take a weekend off from competition before returning to the course in two weeks. The women’s team will compete in Madison, Wisconsin, at the Nuttycombe Invite on Oct. 13, while the men’s team will compete at Pre-Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, on Oct. 14.

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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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