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ND Cross Country

Women’s cross country finishes 1st at Louisville Classic

| Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Notre Dame women’s cross country team remained undefeated on the season by winning its second meet of the season at the Louisville Classic on Saturday. 

The Irish placed first in the seven-team meet with 47 points, beating out SEC teams Ole Miss (54), Kentucky (76) and Tennessee (93).

Head coach Matt Sparks said he is very pleased with his team’s great performance across the board.

“The biggest takeaway I had from the weekend was that no one struggled,” Sparks said. “A lot of credit goes to the girls for that because they took their mind out of the race and raced to their current fitness. In any sport, your head can creep into the competition a little bit and allow you to struggle. They did a great job of ignoring exterior factors and negative self talk in their head and competing to what their current fitness is.”

While in the past the Irish have been led by frontrunners like Molly Seidel and Anna Rohrer, Sparks said this year the team does not have a clear frontrunner.

“This year we know that if we are going to have success it is going to be a bit of a mob mentality of we are all working together for this. It’s neat to see everybody bunched up so close together,” he said.

Leading the Irish pack Saturday was sophomore Jessica Schneider (17:01.9), who was followed closely by graduate student Erin Archibeck (17:08.3), senior AnnaSophia Keller (17:10.9), sophomore Olivia Markezich (17:20.9) and freshman Erin Strzelecki (17:23.6).

Grace Aubry |

Irish sophomore Katie Rose Blachowicz runs during the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 4, 2019.

When asked about a standout performance, it was hard for Sparks to name one person specifically.

“That’s what is so neat about it,” he said. “No one stepped up and did exceptionally well, but everyone just ran to what their potential has been. Everyone competed in the same way that they’ve been practicing.”

Sparks said he was impressed with Schneider in particular, though. Schneider played field hockey in high school rather than running cross country, so she has limited experience in these types of races.

“She’s had track success, but for her to be as successful as she is at cross country is great. I am really proud of her for being able to make that transition and be confident in coming out and racing at that level,” Sparks said.

Sparks said Archibeck is proving to be a leader in the team. Archibeck walked-on the team towards the end of her sophomore year and beginning of her junior year and is now a graduate student. 

“[She] is kind of the glue that’s holding this together. … She’s been our number two the last couple of meets,” Sparks said. “She has now evolved to be a true leader on the team that keeps everyone together and going in the right direction. I’m proud of the way she guides the team through practices and obviously meets. She is the one person that everyone looks to when the gun goes off.”

Beating a traditional top-15 team in the country in Ole Miss in the last meet before the ACC Championships at the end of the month, Sparks said, is key to the team’s future success.

“It gives us a lot of confidence to know that if we can compete with them, then we feel that much more comfortable competing against Florida State and NC State who are on paper two of the better teams in the conference,” he said.

With no more races between now and the ACC Championships on Oct. 30, Sparks said training will be different from past years where there are traditionally more competitions. 

“We are going to hit some of the training sessions harder,” he said. “Typically our races are on Fridays in October, and we had a meeting with our staff this morning to talk about some of the training sessions and what we are going to do on Fridays coming up that would simulate some of the harder efforts that we put into race days. There are some things that will simulate race scenarios a little more than we normally do, which is the biggest difference with this bigger window of training that we have.”

While neither the men’s nor the women’s teams have not had positive cases of COVID-19, the men’s team decided not to compete because some members of the squad were in close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. 

“As a result of those two guys that might have tested positive, we were worried about the rest of the team that might test positive, and we didn’t want to get down there and infect ourselves, each other or anyone else we might be competing against,” Sparks said.

With no national meet on the schedule this year, the regular season holds less importance than usual, Sparks said, and the main focus for both teams going forward will be the conference meet in three-and-a-half weeks.

“In order to make sure that we were most healthy and fit for the conference meet, it seemed like it would make sense to make sure that we were healthy rather than potentially spreading the virus among ourselves or others,” Sparks said. “We like to believe that we did the right thing for all involved which was to stay home.”

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