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ND Cross Country

Cross Country performs well at Joe Piane Invitational

| Monday, October 7, 2019

The Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country team competed in the Joe Piane Invitational this past Friday, which they hosted at Burke Golf Course. Both teams learned a lot about themselves, and they will look to use that knowledge as the postseason approaches.

On the women’s side, the team placed eighth overall, with notable performances in the 5K race from graduate student Anna Rohrer (16:24.71), sophomore Maddy Denner (16:50.52), junior AnnaSophia Keller (17:04.17), graduate student Kelly Hart (17:22.38), and sophomore Jacqueline Gaughan (17:30.44).

Head coach Matt Sparks said he had mixed feelings after the race. The women finished close to New Mexico, a top-five team in the nation, and Sparks felt they could have beat them if everyone was healthy.

“Five people count, and we had four people run really well,” Sparks said. “We need to get Jackie Gaughan up to where she’s capable of running.”

Anna Mason | The Os

Irish junior Brian Griffith runs in the 5-mile run during the Joe Piane Invitational on Friday at Burke Golf Course.

Sparks said he was impressed with the race of Anna Rohrer, who placed sixth overall.

“[Rohrer] is not afraid to engage in the race early. When you do that, you can come back after the race, break some things down and learn and grow from it,” Sparks said. “She’s extremely coachable, so now we can go back to the drawing board and work on some things and hopefully allow her to hang onto that front leader for a bit longer and allow her to be competitive for a national title going forward.”

Rohrer said she was happy with her race and was glad she had the chance to run against some of the best women she will see at the national meet.

“It was definitely a good season opener,” she said. “These are most of the top girls that I am going to be facing this season, so it was good to see where I’m at and what I need to work on.”

Rohrer has lofty goals for the season ahead, she said.

“The individual goal is to continue moving up and getting better throughout all the races and setting some PRs, because I haven’t really been healthy in the past few seasons,” Rohrer said. “I think I’m in a good spot to be able to that, and an NCAA title is always on my mind too.”

Sparks said he was also impressed by the races of Keller and Hart.

“[Keller] is a junior that is really starting to grow into herself as an upperclassman now. [Hart] has been an 800-meter [runner] that hasn’t really excelled in cross country, but she had a big PR today in the 5K,” Sparks said. “We’re excited to see her as a senior captain step up and contribute more than just being a leader and performing on the course as well.”

Another good sign for the women was the performance of rising star Maddy Denner.

“Denner has been a model of consistency for us since she got here last January,” Sparks said. “I know she’s got a lot of room to grow.”

Sparks was also pleased to see PRs across the board for his team, and he is confident that the necessary adjustments can be made to improve heading into the postseason.

The men’s side placed fifth overall, with notable performances in the 5-mile race from junior Yared Nuguse (23:28.10), sophomore Dylan Jacobs (23:40.81), junior Andrew Alexander (23:51.72), graduate student Tony Williams (24:19.22) and sophomore Danny Kilrea (24:31.52).

Head coach Sean Carlson was happy with some parts of the race, but he said he hoped the team could have done better overall. Danny Kilrea, who is a returning All-American, fell early on in the race, making it hard for him to compete at his best.

Despite Kilrea’s fall, the Irish still managed to finish in front of multiple teams in the top 20, including regional rival No. 10 Wisconsin. While finishing in front of good teams is great, Carlson knows that this team is capable of more.

“The thing we compare ourselves to more than any other team is ourselves,” he said. “I just know how good we are right now. I see our fitness in practice.”

Carlson will hold the team to high standards going forward, he said.

“Our expectation is to be great. When your expectation is greatness, good isn’t enough,” he said.

He said he was very pleased with the performance of Jacobs.

“In his first national caliber race in college, he gamed up. He did what he was supposed to do,” Carlson said.

Also performing well was junior Yared Nuguse, who placed sixth overall. Nuguse was the NCAA 1,500 meters champion last track season. Nuguse was pleased with his individual performance, but he said he felt the team could have done better.

“We were hoping for second or third. Going forward, we want to keep improving, so when we get to nationals, we are really giving it our all and performing how we should,” Nuguse said.

Nuguse said he feels the team can accomplish a lot this year.

“I don’t really have much individual goals, but for our team, we definitely want to be in the top 5 or 10 at nationals and win ACCs again like we did last year,” Nuguse said. “Winning it last year was a surprise, so now we want to make it a norm for us to do that.”

While the men’s side did not do as well as they would have hoped, they learned a lot about their team and race strategy, Carlson said.

“I think we learned a lot about our identity moving forward,” he said. “Some of those guys got out there too far back, and they know in college cross country, you can’t mess around in the first mile. You’ve got to get to your spot early where you belong. It’s pretty hard to move up throughout the race.”

The next race for both teams is the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational on Oct. 18, another meet that will also feature some of the best teams in the country.

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