ND Cross Country
Notre Dame ready to face top competition at Pre-Nationals
Jimmy Ward | Thursday, October 11, 2018
In its final meet before the postseason gets underway, Notre Dame will head to Madison, Wisconsin, for the Pre-Nationals taking place on Saturday. Notre Dame is currently set to compete in the second of two seeded races among a field of 35 other teams including numerous top programs. A precursor for the national championship, this weekend will serve as a litmus test for the Irish as they prepare to stack up against some of the best in the country, on the same course they hope to qualify for NCAA championships on Nov. 17.
On the women’s side, things are coming together smoothly for No. 22 Notre Dame. Senior Annie Heffernan has recovered from a nagging injury and will be returning to the course Saturday. For Irish head coach Matt Sparks, this time is as important as any in preparing his team to peak.
“We are going into the time of the year, much like the time leading into March Madness, where we have to start building a strong resume for ourselves,” he said.
With two of the top-five teams facing off against the Irish, this meet is surely an opportunity for the team to do just that. In addition to Heffernan returning to action, classmate Anna Rohrer, who made her first appearance for the Irish at the Joe Piane Invitational, will be expected to put up dominant performances in their final seasons.
Later in the day, the men will take the course and look to build on their momentum from their third-place finish at the Joe Piane Invitational. Committing to allowing this young team to develop, Sparks recently decided not to redshirt freshman Danny Kilrea, a third-place finisher at the 2017 Footlocker National Championships, who will be expected to make his collegiate debut against this strong field. Another freshman to keep a close eye on is Dylan Jacobs, who took home first at the same national meet in high school.
Sparks is confident that despite the lack of experience, this team has the right mentality heading into the final stretch of the season.
“There is a huge change in the chemistry of the team, they have always had a competitive level of fitness, but they have started to form a newfound confidence in their fitness, competing against strong competition has helped them get to this level,” he said. “The same can be said for the women’s team.”
The race will be held at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course, which only opened this year. The women’s race starts at 10:45 a.m. and the men will start at 12:15 pm. Following Pre-Nationals, the Irish will take two weeks off before heading to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, to compete in the ACC championships.