ND Cross Country
Cross country men have high aspirations ahead of national meet
Nate Moller | Monday, March 15, 2021
The Notre Dame men’s cross country team will travel to Stillwater, Okla. to participate in the NCAA Cross Country Championships this coming Monday. In a year full of craziness due to the pandemic, the NCAA Championships were pushed back from the typical November date to this Monday.
Head coach Sean Carlson discussed how grateful he and his team are to have a championship meet.
“I think competition gives a lot of our guys a sense of purpose. It kind of keeps them going,” Carlson said. “After such a long year off and everything that we’ve had over the last year, I think it creates a sense of normalcy for things moving forward. We’re just really, really excited to be able to race now, regardless of the outcome.”
The Irish men finished in 14th place at last year’s meet, and Carlson hopes that his team can place better this year and assert themselves as one of the best cross country programs in the country.
“We want to establish our program as being hopefully a more consistent podium contending team, and just kind of keep improving our program from there,” Carlson said. “We’ve gotten to the point where we think we’re a consistent top ten team, and we’re trying to strive for that next level and be a top podium contending team.”
Carlson mentioned how the difficulties of the South Bend winter and topography have affected his team’s training.
“We weren’t maybe able to get outside on grass as much as we would have liked,” he said. “The national meet is probably one of the most challenging courses in the NCAA in terms of hills, and in South Bend, it’s pretty tough to get on any hills.”
Despite this, Carlson is thankful that his team is healthy, and he has confidence that they will be ready to perform on Monday.
“Having all our guys be healthy, and the fact that they are all in the best shape that they have ever been, I like to think that might negate the fact that maybe we haven’t done what we would normally do going into a cross country just because of our location and access to those things,” he said.
Carlson discussed the challenging nature of the Oklahoma State Cross Country Course.
“We’ve never raced there, which poses some challenges, especially since some of the teams that we’re trying to compete with for a podium finish all have probably been there,” Carlson said. “Certainly it makes it challenging, but it’s just the circumstance that we’re in, and we really couldn’t have done much about it.”
Although the lack of hill training could be a potential worry, Carlson hopes that the hilly ten kilometer race can play into some of his team’s strengths as well.
“The national meet is 10K over hills, and I think it really plays into teams that are going to be very aerobically developed and have more strength-based velocity in their training, which I think will help us a lot,” Carlson said. “I think that the course can play in our favor in some regards in that way.”
In addition to the weather and temperature outside, Carlson discussed how the indoor track season, which is also currently taking place, could affect the results. All of the Irish racing Monday have not participated in indoor track and solely focused on cross country training.
“There are a lot of elements to this that don’t exist in a normal setting,” Carlson said. “Some teams got some of their guys running indoor track, and the fitness requirements to run indoors, and the fitness requirements to run a 10K are very different.”
Carlson hopes that his team can run together in two packs at Monday’s race.
“I think the race should hopefully play out for us with [junior] Danny [Kilrea], [junior] Dylan [Jacobs], and [senior] Yared [Nuguse] trying to run as a pack together in that race. Our next pack, we’re going to try and run [freshman] Josh Methner, [sophomore] Jake Renfree, [senior] Andrew Alexander, and [graduate student] Kevin Salvano together,” Carlson said.
Carlson is excited to see some of his runners for the first time on the national stage, and he hopes his whole second pack can finish in the top-70 of the race.
“With Josh Methner and Jake Renfree, this is their first time at the national meet in cross country, and both of them look as good as they ever have, so it’s pretty exciting,” he said.
“Andrew Alexander was 67th last year at cross country nationals, which is a pretty good finish. And just the fact that I think that they can all run with him says a lot because if you can put all those guys in our second pack in the top 70 you are in a pretty good place.”
With everyone in their best shape, Carlson is confident the Irish can have a great race on Monday.
“I think if we run our ability level, I think we’ll have a really, really good day.”