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ND Cross Country

Irish ready to end title drought

| Thursday, September 6, 2018

It’s been 61 years since either Notre Dame cross country team has won a championship. Prior to that, the men had been named runner up three times. This year however, there’s more hope than ever that this title drought could come to an end.

The Irish were unable to make it to the NCAA Championship last year but, this year looks to be different. Senior Anna Rohrer — who missed last season due to a hamstring injury — will return to race this year for the women’s side. Rohrer has won All-ACC Team honors, ACC Freshman of the Year and ACC Performer of the Year.

In addition, sophomore Annasophia Keller will also aim to improve on an impressive first year in which she became part of the team’s top runners. Six of last season’s top-seven runners will be returning as well. To cap it off, the Irish will have plenty of experienced runners on the course with the likes of seniors Rohrer, Rachel DaDamio and Annie Heffernan, along with the return of graduate student Sydney Foreman.

On the men’s side, nearly the entire team will be returning as well, with veteran Kevin Pulliam opting in for a fifth year. In addition to these returning veterans, rising star Yared Nuguse will seek to build upon what was an impressive freshman campaign in which he finished top-25 All-Region, a strong showing for his debut season. To add to the team’s pedigree, the Irish signed three top-10 recruits last season which will help sustain the success of the team for years to come.

The time has never been better for this experienced team to make their mark. Newly appointed head coach Matt Sparks, who served as an assistant coach for the Irish for four years, brings knowledge of the team and the leadership skills needed for a team trying to get back into the postseason. Sparks has displayed that he can lead teams and players to great success. He was integral piece for the Irish over the last four years, leading the women to an 11th place finish at the 2016 NCAA Championships, six ACC individual titles and an individual NCAA Cross Country Championship title with Molly Seidel’s 2016 Championship performance.

Nuguse said Sparks is doing a good job and providing strong leadership for both teams.

“As of right now, I think [Coach Sparks is] giving really good leadership to the program as a whole,” Nuguse said. “I just feel like he knows us more on a personal basis than our last coach did, and everything is running smoothly so far. As far as I can tell, coach Sparks has been a great head coach.”

Although cross country is a sport of many variables, the Irish have the talent and the leadership to make a deep run this year. Barring no major injuries occur, all eyes will be on this season’s team, as the Irish will attempt to bounce back from last season and end a drought that, by Irish standards, is too long.

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