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ND Cross Country

Men’s and women’s squads take first at 42nd National Catholic Invitational

| Wednesday, September 22, 2021

After a successful season opener at the Winrow-Valparaiso Open earlier this month, the Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country teams gained momentum at the 42nd National Catholic Invitational on Friday, each squad earning a first-place team finish despite the muggy weather. Both teams enjoyed a wide margin of victory as well — the men’s team bested their next opponent, Lewis, by 53 points, and the women’s team dominated the second-best Duquesne by a whopping 66 points, also boasting a perfect score of 15, with its five scoring runners finishing in the top five overall.

The hot, humid day was full of firsts for the Irish: This meet marked an Irish debut for freshman Kate Wiser, University of Indianapolis graduate student transfer Lauren Bailey and sophomore Robbie Cozean, who was redshirted last fall. And not only was the race the teams’ first real taste of their home turf this year; it was also the team’s first home meet since the lifting of COVID-19 safety guidelines prohibiting spectators. For the first time in nearly two years, runners were met with the sights and sounds of fans lining the course.

Head men’s cross country coach Sean Carlson stressed the importance of this newfound energy on Burke Golf Course — especially for those experiencing their first collegiate crowds.

“For some of our younger runners, this was the first time they have had a proper chance to run in front of our home crowd,” Carlson said. “I think they fed off of that energy. With ACC’s being on our home course this year, it was a great opportunity to have a dress rehearsal for what that atmosphere will be like.”

Sporting an Irish uniform for the first time, Cozean certainly seemed to feed off the course’s energy — with Carlson’s eyes on the former redshirt going into the race, he proved himself to be a valuable asset for the Irish moving forward, a strong second-half kick boosting him from a subpar start to a second-place finish.

Carlson praised Cozean’s performance, also noting his large potential in the coming years.

“Robbie was a standout performer for us,” Carlson said. “I am excited about his potential to be a key contributor for us in the next couple of years. He was hurting pretty early on in the race and dropped off the lead group, but was tough enough to rally back up to take second place. He’s been consistent all summer in training and is looking to have a very strong season.”

Continuing their successful pack-running strategies, the men’s team stuck together from the gun to the finish. At the first mile marker, all eight men found themselves in the top 11 positions, all separated by less than one second, and the team’s top five scorers all finished within a 10-second period.

Carlson commended the team for their steady commitment to pack-running, stressing that the men’s formation shouldn’t change much as the season continues.

“Everything we do here — in training and racing — is centered around the team,” Carlson said. “We want to train and race together, as a group. As the competition gets tougher, and as the season goes on, it becomes even more important to stay composed and run alongside your teammates. This is a strategy we will definitely hope to employ moving forward.”

While not quite as successful in maintaining a large pack, the women’s team still proved relatively successful in running together — teammates crossed the finish line in twos, with Kate Wiser and Maddy Denner snatching the first two spots in quick succession, and the pair of Lauren Bailey and Katie Rose Blachowicz following not too far behind.

As the season picks up speed, Carlson hopes to find success in steadiness.

“Nothing changes for us — we will stay patient and focus all our energy on nationals and conference.”

The Irish will run next in the Joe Piane Invitational on Friday, Oct. 1, with the women’s 5K beginning at 11:00 a.m. and the men’s 5-mile race kicking off at 11:45 a.m.

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About Evan McKenna

Evan is a graduate of the Notre Dame class of 2022 with majors in English and psychology and a concentration in creative writing. He served as The Observer’s Managing Editor for the 2021-2022 term, and is currently rekindling his relationship with the Oxford comma. Reach him at [email protected] or @evanjmckenna on Twitter.

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