ND Cross Country
Notre Dame prepares for NCAA championships
Jimmy Ward | Thursday, November 15, 2018
Both the Irish men and women qualified for NCAA championships, which take place this Saturday, in Madison, Wis., with no small thanks to their performances last Friday at the Regional championship in Terre Haute, Ind. Coming off a first-place finish at the ACC championship, the men’s team had a runners-up performance at Regionals, with sophomore Yared Nuguse leading the pack, placing third overall, followed closely by freshman Danny Kilrea, who finished ninth. The women’s team placed fourth at the Regional championship, led by senior Anna Rohrer, who placed second in the 6k race. She was followed by freshman Jackie Gaughan, who came across the line in sixth place. While the men knew immediately following the action, becoming the first Irish male squad since 2013 to qualify, the women qualified with an at large bid, for which they had to wait to hear of until Saturday.
Head coach Matt Sparks said the most important key to his team’s success this season has been its strongly reliable consistency.
“Really, the talk has been ‘Let’s just do the same things we’ve done at the conference meet and the regional meet.’ The men and women the last two meets have run really well. We are trying to emulate the weeks of practice that led up to those successes. We talk a lot about just controlling the controllable which we plan to do on Saturday,” Sparks said.
Coach Sparks also noted the expectations he has for his team going into the championship, especially after the performances at ACCs.
“They’ve been training well and we had a good pre-national meet, but it wasn’t a surprise, not just to the athletes but to the coaches and even the national scene,” he said. “After that meet, we have come to expect more of an elite level of performance from the team. The thing that made those elite level performances happen though is the fact that they trained and began to view themselves as such a level of a program. Seeing that come to fruition was a dream come true, and now we just need to keep building upon that. With such a young group, we have the majority of the scoring positions on the men’s team returning next year, along with what we expect to be a pretty good recruiting class. It gives us confidence in what we can accomplish, not just in the next year, but for many years going forward. … It’d be great if both our teams could finish in the top-10. We’ve been ranked around 10 to 15 all year, and it would be great accomplishment if we could sneak into the top-10.”
Snowfall is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday in Madison. But as a school from the already-frigid North, Sparks said the Irish will not only be ready for the conditions, but are actually looking forward to them.
“We’ll be curious to see how that weather shapes out,” he said. “There is a chance of snow, but we feel comfortable with that, having to deal with that a lot here, and some of the other schools that we compete against are not as adept at training and running in adverse conditions. Actually, we are kind of hoping for a little bit of snow on the ground.”
The NCAA championships meet takes place this Saturday at Thomas Zimmer Championship Course in Madison, Wis.