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ND Cross Country

Teams prepare for Catholic Invitational, future

| Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The men and women of Notre Dame cross country will take on the Catholic Invitational on Friday, a race that entails the meeting of 23 catholic universities and colleges racing against each other. 

Associate distance head coach Matt Sparks is optimistic about the team’s potential for the season and is looking ahead to later races. 

Emma Farnan | The Observer

Sophomore Anna Fischer strides towards the finish line during the 2018 National Catholic Cross Country Invitational at Burke Golf Course.

“This one’s always fun to welcome our fellow Catholic institutions to campus,” Sparks said. “On the women’s side, we’ve won this meet for many years running. We want to continue that streak of individually and team success that we’ve had recently. On the men’s side, we’ve had some challenges over the years and lost the meet a few times over the last five or six years. This is one that we take a lot of pride and hosting our fellow Catholic schools, but also putting our best foot forward and starting the year on a competitive note with a championship.”

For the rest of the season, both teams hope to be in the top 10 for the country and run well in the ACC championships. 

A few runners are nursing some injuries and are sitting the invitational out, Sparks said. 

“We’ve got a few aches and pains that are keeping some people out of full time run conditioning,” Sparks said. “We want to make sure they’re healthy when it matters most. We’re kind of nursing our way through some aches and pains just to make sure everybody’s appropriately fit and healthy when it matters most.”

Senior Kevin Salvano and sophomore Jackie Gaughan are among those top runners who are working through some injuries, Sparks said. 

For the invitational, Sparks said they will be holding back many of their top runners, allowing younger and more inexperienced runners to prove what they can do. 

“It’s a chance for some of the younger athletes that have never been counted on to contribute,” Sparks said. “There should be quite a few athletes that have never been in that contributing role to step up and do that. It’s hard to tell you it’s going to be, but it’s fun for the coaches and fun for the athletes.”

Sparks said the men’s team has a good balance of upperclassmen and underclassmen. 

“The men’s team has got a really good balance of juniors and seniors with great leadership amongst those guys,” he said. “[Sophomore] Danny Kilrea was an All-American last year as a freshman, so with [senior] Kevin Salvano and [graduate student] Tony Williams leading the way from a captain standpoint, to go along with [junior] Yared Nuguse, who’s a national champion in the 1500, and Danny [Kilrea] that are still sort of younger cross country runners.”

As for the women’s side, there are many fifth year students who are leading the team, Sparks said.

“On the women’s side, it’s very much divided between fifth year graduate students that have great leadership for us, and [graduate students] Anna Rohrer and Kelly Hart to go along with our freshmen and sophomores,” Sparks said. “Maddy Denner and Jackie Gaughan are sophomores that are providing crucial points for us and are still young to the college process.”

Although it’s still early on in the season, Sparks said they are looking ahead towards what they can accomplish in November. 

“The NCAA championship meet is Nov. 23, and the ACC championship is Nov. 1,” he said. “Those are kind of the big spotlight meets that we’re kind of pushing towards in the month of November. We want to obviously want to be running well in September, but we want to keep our eye on the prize for November.”

About Mariah Rush

Mariah is a senior majoring in American Studies and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She is from the great city of South Bend, and serves as Managing Editor of The Observer. You can find her always on Twitter at @mariahfrush.

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