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ND Cross Country

Cross Country Cruises to Victory at Crusader Classic Invitational

| Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Notre Dame began the season in winning fashion with both teams taking first at the Crusader Classic Invitational at Valparaiso University this past Friday. Despite holding out top veteran runners from the race, both teams had all five scoring runners finish in the top-10. The women won by 28 points and the men by 18. 

“This obviously gives us a lot of confidence going forward into the next meet and when we bring in the rest of our veteran leaders to the team to complement the younger kids that are starting to gain confidence,” head cross country coach Matt Sparks said. “We are feeling really good about the direction we are headed.”

The women were led Maddy Denner and Jocelyn Long, who crossed the finish line for the 5K in 17:03 and 17:40, respectively.

Other notable performances included graduate student Kelly Hart, who placed third with a time of 17:42. Hart, who typically focuses more on middle distance training for track, is not as accustomed to competing in cross country and usually uses the fall season to stay fit for track. Sparks was impressed by her race and her improvements.

“She told us this morning at practice she ran three minutes faster today than she did in the same race freshmen year,” Sparks said.

Senior Erin Archibeck (17:56) and sophomore Meghan Scott (18:18) rounded out the scoring five for the women. Freshman Olivia Markezich (17:56) also had an impressive race running unattached.

The men’s side dominated the 6K race in a similar fashion with sophomores Zach Kreft (18:09) and Matthew Carmody (18:25) taking the top-two spots and junior Brian Griffith (18:32) taking third. Junior Vincent Zona (18:53) and sophomore Jack McNabola (18:54) were the other two scorers for the men.

“Zach Kreft had some decent races as a freshman but really looked comfortable this time leading the way for us,” Sparks said. 

Sparks was impressed by Kreft and Denner’s ability to lead and win their races.

“A lot of times you see kids that are leading a race and they feel a little awkward in those positions,” Sparks said. “Especially when they are a freshman or sophomore, they don’t know if that’s where they’re supposed to be. [Denner and Kreft] were very assertive and natural where they were. They knew that’s where they should be and they were very comfortable in those leadership spots for us.”

Sparks said that Friday’s event was used somewhat as an exhibition contest to see how the team would race without some of its veteran leadership and to allow some younger, less experienced runners a chance to race. The race will also be used to make redshirt decisions on younger runners.

“It’s early in the year, so there are still a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together over the coming weeks,” Sparks said.

The race did show, however, that the top two or three finishers for the men’s and women’s team will likely be contributing to the varsity team in the near future. 

“The big theme on both sides was prevailing,” Sparks said. “There were a lot of uncertainties with lots of freshmen and sophomores. There were a lot of kids running in their first competition as a member of the team.”

Sparks said one other thing that stood out to him from the race was the team chemistry and support among runners for one another on the course. 

“A lot of kids drove over that weren’t competing to support everyone else that was there,” Sparks said. “Everybody is just in it for each other.”

The next race on the schedule for the Irish is the National Catholic Invitational on September 20 at Burke Golf Course. Sparks said that the same runners will be racing at that meet and a few veteran runners will be added on.

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