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ND Cross Country

Irish clinch first ACC title, eight runners named to all-ACC team

| Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Notre Dame made a successful appearance at the 2018 ACC championships in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, this past Friday. The women’s team captured second place overall, falling just one point shy of North Carolina State, who has claimed the title three-straight times, while the men’s team won their first ACC title in program history behind several impressive performances by Irish runners.

Although the Irish were poised to have their best shot at claiming the conference title, head coach Matt Sparks acknowledged it was still a tall task for his team to achieve.

Connery McFadden | The Observer

Irish sophomore Yared Nuguse strides on the Burke Golf Course at the National Catholic Invitational on Sept. 14.

“For the men, we thought we had an outside chance to win, but with a team like Syracuse who had never lost an ACC championship, coming in we weren’t overly confident that we could take them down,” he said. “Cross country is a unique sport because you’re not playing defense on anybody, you’re just doing what you can do. You can control your own race.”

The men captured first place in the 8,000-meter race, beating out 14 other ACC squads with strong showings by all five scorers, including three top-10 overall finishers. Sophomore Yared Nuguse led Notre Dame, coming in third overall with a time of 23:48.8. Close behind were junior Anthony Williams, running a time of 23:53.7 and coming in sixth overall, and freshman Danny Kilrea at 23:57.6, securing 10th place. Sophomore Andrew Alexander was fourth for the Irish and 16th overall with a time of 24:07.6, and junior Kevin Salvano rounded out the top five, coming in 22nd with a time of 24:18.5. The Irish top five totaled 57 points, enough to knock off Syracuse and end their five-year winning streak. All eight men’s runners finished in the top 50.

Sparks said the momentous win was a team effort while crediting assistant coach Sean Carlson with his contributions in his eighth year with the Irish.

“There’s really been a big culture shift on the men’s team, there’s just been a lot of confidence over the past 12 months,” Sparks said. “Obviously their fitness has improved but the biggest change has been the confidence that coach Carlson has instilled in those guys and the belief that they have in him … about the workouts, about what the vision is. … They are fully invested in coach Carlson’s plans not just today but for the entire season.”

The women’s race was one for the ages, with the Irish falling one point short of dethroning the Wolfpack. Sparks commented on the results.

“Mixed emotions … our top four ran especially well. For the runners, who finished in scoring position, as much as we tell them not to look for where they could have gotten another point you can’t help but wonder if you could’ve picked up another spot,” he said.

Senior Anna Rohrer led the Irish throughout the whole 6,000-meter race, placing third overall with a time of 20:19.2. Senior Rachel DaDamio followed, coming in sixth at 20:33.8. Freshman Jacqueline Gaughan come in closely behind, finishing seventh and recording a time of 20:38.1. Graduate student Jessica Harris came in fourth for Notre Dame and 14th overall with a time of 20:49, and sophomore Annasophia Keller rounded out the point scorers, coming in 38th with a time of 21:26.3.

Sparks said Rohrer, who has battled injuries throughout her career, had a strong showing to open the post season.

“[She] has had some aches and pains over the past couple weeks that have kept her out of some training so she really stepped up big time,” Sparks said. “For her to be third was a bit of a surprise. Jessica Harris was our number four spot running her first all conference. She didn’t run for two months this summer because of surgery. For those two leaders to step up was huge. And then Jackie Gaughan winning freshman of the year was great, it was a a goal we had in the back of our minds for her.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams had four members named to the all-ACC team: Rohrer, DaDamio, Gaughan and Jessica Harris for the women, and Nuguse, Williams, Kilrea and Alexander for the men. The men are currently ranked 15th in the nation, while the women are now 18th nationally.

“We think we can have a nationally competitive team with the ladies as well as the men,” Sparks said.

Sparks’ team will now prepare to head South in the Hoosier state to Terra Haute, Indiana, for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional next Friday.

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