ND Cross Country
Men’s cross country wins ACC title, Nuguse takes home individual crown
Nate Moller | Monday, November 2, 2020
The men’s and women’s cross country teams competed at the ACC Championships this past Friday in Cary, North Carolina. The men took first, bringing home their second title in three years, and the women’s team tied for fifth.
On the women’s side, the Irish finished with 116 points, trailing NC State (47), Georgia Tech (99), Florida State (109), Duke (114), and North Carolina (116).
Although head women’s coach Matt Sparks was disappointed with the sixth place finish, the Irish were only two points off of fourth place and 17 points off of second place.
“If you look at the team place, it doesn’t look good, but we were only 17 points out of second place, which is where we thought we could have been,” Sparks said. “I’m obviously disappointed to not be there.”
Leading the way for the Irish was graduate student Erin Archibeck, who placed twelfth overall in a time of 20:35.5 for the 6K race.
Sparks discussed how Archibeck has been the leader of the team all year.
“Erin Archibeck has kind of been our captain of this team. That was on display this Friday when she stepped up and ran like the graduate student that she is,” he said.
Sparks was also impressed with junior Maddy Denner, who placed seventeenth with a time of 20:37.8.
“Denner hadn’t competed since that first race,” Sparks said. “She had an Achilles injury that took her out for about three weeks in September and October, so she missed a significant amount of training and wasn’t where she was a year ago. For her to get seventeenth was a bonus for us.”
Sophomore Jessica Schneider, who was the frontrunner for the Irish in the previous two races, was fifth for the Irish on Friday.
Sparks was impressed with her performance because of the circumstances that Schneider was in ahead of the race.
“She missed ten days of training and practice leading up to the conference meet. She was cleared on Thursday afternoon, which was the first time we were able to practice with her after ten days of unknown training and no practice,” Sparks said. “For her to not be able to train with the team over ten days, that is a respectable performance.”
On the men’s side, the Irish dominated the race from start to finish and took home the team title with 40 points, finishing well ahead of NC State (54), Wake Forest (86), and Virginia (92).
Head men’s coach Sean Carlson attributed the success to the confidence of his team going into the race.
Carlson explained how a lot of the tension before the race was because of the COVID-19 tests that his athletes had to take the day before the race. After everyone was cleared, the Irish were confident in what they had to do in the race.
“A lot of the tension was probably more around what those results were going to be. We tested before and didn’t have COVID, but with travel and everything, there was a little bit of nerves,” Carlson said. “Once we got the results back, it was a sigh of a relief and more of an opportunity to just go out and have some fun.”
Carlson was happy with how the race went from start to finish.
“The race played out pretty well. Our guys at the mile were in the front or towards the front. Our pack led 90% of the race throughout the race,” he said. “About halfway through the race we were sitting pretty comfortably from a points standpoint, and I was able to relax and enjoy watching the race a little bit more.”
Carlson was grateful that his athletes had a chance to compete again in the middle of a pandemic.
“It was really just a great opportunity to have a race again. It’s been such a long time since we have been able to race in a championship setting, and I think the guys really appreciated that,” he said. “You have to have a purpose in whatever you are doing. The opportunity to be able to race this gave us a purpose all Fall, which is really nice to have to help build a program.”
Carlson was also ecstatic for senior Yared Nuguse, who took home the individual title of the race in a blazing fast time of 23:03.6 in the 8K distance.
“I was really proud of Yared and excited,” Carlson said. “It shows the incredible level of range and depth that he has an athlete. He can run under 1:48 for an 800, and he won a mile title, but then to go all the way up to 8,000m and win — not a lot of people have that range. It is a testament to who he is and his willpower.”
Nuguse became the first men’s runner in program history to win the title, and Carlson recognizes the importance of this to the program as a whole.
“It is his first conference title and Notre Dame’s first individual [men’s] conference title ever, so I think it had a lot of pretty cool significance within our program and for him. I think a big part too is when you have a guy like that who sets an example, it creates a confidence with all of the guys because they train with him everyday,” Carlson said.
The Irish men swept the trophy table, winning the individual, team, and freshman of the year awards. The ACC Freshman runner of the Year award was won by Joshua Methner, who finished eleventh in a time of 23:30.1.
The Irish men will now look to the national meet, which is tentatively scheduled for March 15. Although the meet will likely interfere with indoor nationals, Carlson explained how the tentative plan is to pursue the cross country title.
“Rather than having a couple of third-place finishes, our goal is to go all in and try to win it. We are leaning towards a national cross country national meet and going all in,” Carlson said.
Carlson explained how this meet gives his team a purpose going forward, which is so important in the midst of the pandemic.
“The exciting thing for us right now is that the meet is happening, and we have a purpose, and I think that goes a long way, especially right now with everybody in society,” Carlson said. “Finding a purpose allows us to keep going even though there are some difficult things going on around us.”