ND Cross Country
Cross country set to compete in stacked field at Joe Piane Invitational
Nate Moller | Thursday, September 30, 2021
The Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country team will return to action this Friday at the Joe Piane-Notre Dame Invitational, which will be the team’s second home meet of the season.
The meet will feature some of the top teams across the country, which should serve as a good benchmark for where the Irish are at on the national level.
The men’s team will be holding out their top seven from racing in order to best prepare them for the postseason, but head men’s cross country coach Sean Carlson said he is excited for his next seven runners to gain more experience in a competitive field.
“It is a way for a lot of those guys to get a lot more experience,” Carlson said. “Some of them are younger and they’ve raced in college meets, but maybe not one of this caliber in a way where they are our front line.”
Carlson said he believes this race will prepare his younger runners for the future when they will have to lead the team.
“It puts a little pressure on them and an opportunity to rise to the occasion, which we are really excited about,” he said. “It sets them up for the future being the guys that carry the torch down the road.”
There will be a plethora of ranked teams at the meet, which will be a big challenge for the Irish runners.
“If we can beat some ranked teams that would be really cool with our next seven, but I mean it’s hard to say just because they’re still so young,” Carlson said. “It’s really more of viewing it as an opportunity to run a good team race and maybe beat some ranked teams with our 8 through 14 runners and go from there.”
Carlson expects senior Matthew Carmody to lead the way for the Irish, and he discussed who he expects to fill out the rest of the scoring for the Irish.
“[Junior] Tom Seitzer should be the next guy for us,” Carlson said. “He won the National Catholic Invite. [Sophomore] Robbie Cozean was second at National Catholic and he’ll be another guy that really helps us. [Sophomore] Carter Solomon has really been coming on as well, so those four should be really solid.”
Carlson added that the key to the meet will be finding a fifth man to round out the scoring. He discussed how they “are going to be looking for a fifth a little bit and looking for somebody to step up to be with some of those other guys.”
He said he thinks they “will have a really good group, but we are going to need a fifth, especially when we are holding out that many guys. I think a lot of the results is going to be really reliant on how good our fifth man is on Friday.”
Carlson expects Matthew Carmody to be ahead for the Irish, but he hopes that a pack of Irish runners can form behind him.
“We’re hoping to have a pack together right behind [Carmody] working together,” he said. “At least our next three guys should be in a group working together through that race. Hopefully we can get four guys. We are going to take a very team oriented approach to it.”
Although there has already been one race at home, Friday’s meet will be much larger and should bring an extra excitement to it with the return of spectators.
“I think having spectators really creates an energy that hasn’t existed for a while with college sports, at least in our sport,” Carlson said. “I think a lot of our guys are really excited for that, especially in a national-type field. It’s going to be fun.”
The women’s team will also be competing Friday, and unlike the men, they will be racing all of their top seven runners.
There will be two of the top five teams in the country and five of the top eight teams in the country at the meet, setting up a huge stage for the Irish.
Women’s cross country head coach Matt Sparks discussed the impact of having a big invitational like this.
“It’s been two years since we have been in a race of this magnitude,” he said. “We had cross country last year, but it was basically just the conference and we didn’t have the large invitationals.”
Sparks said he is excited to see how junior Olivia Markezich, first-year Kate Wiser and graduate student Lauren Bailey compete in their first cross country meet of this size.
“Even Olivia Markezich, who is a junior now, has run some big races on the track, but it has been two years since we’ve had a big cross country race with 200 elite runners in the race together,” Sparks said. “Obviously for the newcomers in Kate Wiser, who was our number at National Catholic Invite, and Lauren Bailey, who was our number three runner and a transfer from division two, it will be interesting to see how they handle the division one competition.”
But Sparks said he is also anxious to see how returning runners respond to the environment of a big invitational.
“We will see how well their memory is of elite collegiate cross country competition,” Sparks said. “The other good thing is, it’s going to be a pretty level playing field where almost everyone in this race hasn’t been in a big meet environment quite yet this year. I’m sure there will be some extra butterflies come Friday morning.”
Sparks said he expects his team to run with confidence on their home course on Friday.
“The thing that’s made all women successful here previously is they compete without fear. There’s an elite confidence factor that comes into play,” Sparks continued with, “I’m going to share with them just to be who they are. And that’s to be confident and aggressive.”
With the conference meet at the Burke Golf Course as well in just over four weeks, Sparks said he thinks Friday should be a good preview for that meet.
“We’ll get to see where their teams’ individuals fall and come back and see them again here in four weeks,” he said.
The coach also said he is very excited to host the meet Friday.
“We’re proud to host everybody, and I’m excited to show them what the campus looks like,” he said. “Hopefully we can come out and perform at a high level as well.”
The women’s gold division race will take place at 1:30 p.m., and it will be followed by the men’s gold division race at 2:15 p.m.