ND Cross Country
Cross country achieves perfect scores at Irish Classic
Nate Moller | Monday, September 21, 2020
The Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country teams opened their season this past Saturday at the Irish Classic at Burke Golf Course. Although the only other team at the meet was Louisville, the Irish dominated with both sides getting a perfect team score of 15.
On the women’s side, head coach Matt Sparks was ecstatic his team had the chance to compete again after months of no competition.
“The nice thing about this situation was that we just competed,” Sparks stated. “There were no restrictions because of COVID. It was nice to have that sense of normalcy back in our lives.”
Over the past few years, the Irish were led by veterans Molly Seidel and Anna Rohrer, who were both in contention for the individual national titles during their careers. With their departures, Sparks was excited that some young talent emerged during Saturday’s race.
“We happened to be led by [sophomore] Jessica Schneider in her first cross country race of her life actually,” Sparks said. “She was a field hockey player in high school and redshirted last year. She led the way for us yesterday.”
Schneider won the five-mile race in a time of 16:59.21.
Sparks was also happy that his team was able to pack up during the race.
“We had basically five runners separated by 20 seconds or so, so we did a good job of working together for the first competition in a long time,” Sparks stated. “We wanted to rely on each other instead of going out there and figuring things out on your own because it had been awhile since we competed. We did a good job of finding the people that we train with everyday and working our way through the course of the competition.”
Sparks was also excited to see true freshman Erin Strzelecki as the fifth runner for the Irish. Strzelecki finished in a time of 17:13.16.
“We knew we were going to have to rely on some inexperienced cross country runners in order to have success and it was neat to see Erin Strzelecki as a freshman fill out the top-five for us,” Sparks said. “Erin was a high school All-American, so we expected an easier transition from high school to college even though it has only been a couple of months.”
Sparks stressed the importance of keeping the momentum from Saturday’s race.
“We need to maintain that confidence that we found yesterday,” Sparks said. “Carrying that forward is a big piece that we are going to look to maintain through the next competition.”
Other notable finishers for the Irish were graduate student Erin Archibeck (17:04.27), junior Maddy Denner (17:09.34), and senior Annasophia Keller (17:11.19).
Head men’s cross country coach Sean Carlson was very pleased with how his team opened the year as well.
“This is the best we have opened up a season since I’ve been at Notre Dame by a significant margin,” Carlson said.
The Irish had 10 runners complete the 5-mile race in under 25 minutes. Carlson drew a comparison to last year’s National Catholic Invite, which usually takes place around this time of the year. In that race last year, then-sophomore Dylan Jacobs won the race in a time of 25:08.94 in what would end up being an All-American season for him.
The performance on Saturday showed Carlson that his team is making steps in the right direction.
“It’s a necessary step for us, so I’m excited to see that. We are starting a couple of steps ahead of where we were at a year ago,” Carlson stated. “A year ago we were eighth-place in the country, so it shows that we are kinda making that progression to what some of our goals are.”
Carlson was very impressed by true freshman Joshua Methner who was the fifth runner for the Irish in a time of 24:12.89, and kept up with the pack of veteran Irish runners.
“That was really impressive what Methner did to run with those guys in that pack,” Sparks said. “A lot of the guys have potential to be All-American this year in cross country, and for Josh to come out in his first race as a freshman and be with those guys was really impressive. That was the first five-mile race that he has ever run. That was certainly one of the more impressive performances of the day.”
Methner was one of the top high school runners in the nation last season, and he looks to have a successful running career at Notre Dame ahead of him according to Carlson.
“That is the best start that I’ve seen of any freshman at Notre Dame, and we have had some pretty good runners,” hesaid.
Other notable finishers for the Irish included senior Yared Nuguse (24:06.92), senior Andrew Alexander (24:09.84), junior Dylan Jacobs (24:09.87), and junior Danny Kilrea (24:12.25).
The Irish will be back in competition in two weeks at Louisville, and Carlson has high expectations for what his unit will look like come that time.
“Our goal is to establish ourselves and reaffirm with the guys in the program that if we are trying to compete for trophies at nationals, we should certainly be able to look like that same team at Louisville,” Carlson said. “The idea is to continue to reaffirm our identity and where our program is at right now.”