ND Cross Country
Cross country teams set to compete at ACC Championships
Nate Moller | Friday, October 29, 2021
The Irish men’s and women’s cross country programs will open their slate of postseason meets at home this Friday at the ACC Championships, which will be hosted at the Burke Golf Course.
This will be the first time that the Irish men’s team race all of their runners this season, and head men’s cross country coach Sean Carlson is excited to see what his team can do.
“We are letting all of the horses out of the stable to try and defend the title and get some momentum heading into the national meet,” Carlson said.
Carlson discussed the strategy for his team on Friday, as his team runs to defend their ACC title.
“We are going to have two really two solid packs. [Senior] Dylan [Jacobs] and [graduate student] Yared [Nuguse] can definitely run together, which should be really fun to see,” Carlson said. “We are going to go and get after it. We aren’t going to mess around. I think it’s just going to get going from the gun, and there are not going to be too many tactics to it.”
Carlson said he hopes to find out more about his team in Friday’s race as well.
“We can also try to find out who the top seven guys really are,” Carlson said. “We haven’t run the full lineup with everyone racing head to head yet, so this should be a good indicator of finding that out.”
Carlson talked about what it means to have the conference meet at home for his team.
“I think it will be really fun for the guys to have their friends and families all able to come out here at home,” Carlson said. “I think they are really excited for that, especially a year after not having spectators. I know the guys are all really excited, and a lot of guys have family coming in. And then there’s a home football game the next day, so I think it will be a really good weekend for a lot of people.”
Carlson feels that his team is in really good shape.
“I think from an X’s and O’s physical standpoint, we are as good as we have ever been, but making sure that you are mentally and emotionally in that same place that you are physically is an important part,” Carlson said.
The Irish men are heavy favorites to win the ACC Championships, as the team is currently ranked 8th by USTFCCCA. Arguably the top competition for the Irish will be the 19th-ranked Florida State Seminoles, who are the only other ranked team in the ACC.
While the men are heavy favorites, the 22nd-ranked Irish women’s cross country team will have their work cut out for them against very stiff ACC competition. They will go up against second-ranked North Carolina State, 10th-ranked Florida State, 13th-ranked North Carolina, 16th-ranked Syracuse and Georgia Tech, who was last year’s runner-up.
In the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational that the women competed at a couple of weeks ago, the Irish were edged out by Syracuse. Women’s cross country head coach Matt Sparks hopes that his team can beat out teams like Syracuse on Friday, but he also stressed the importance of not getting too caught up in the competition.
“The unique thing about our sport is that we are not playing defense. We’re working on ourselves, and we can’t worry about what they’re doing,” Sparks said. “That’s what we have talked a lot about. Let’s take care of what we can take care of. We can’t control what Syracuse, North Carolina or Florida State are going to do.”
Unfortunately for the Irish on Friday, they might be without first-year Kate Wiser, who is getting over a sickness and was not able to finish the race at the meet a couple of weeks ago.
Carlson discussed Wiser’s health and how his team is feeling ahead of the ACC Championships.
“We are still not sure if [Wiser] is going to be ready to go, but we have had a great two weeks of practice,” Sparks said. “Fall break always falls at a great time of year for us. Having that week off of school is a great time for our students to recharge because they are hardworking students. It’s nice for them to get caught up on rest and then rest up for the conference meet.”
Sparks talked about what the strategy for his team will look like Friday.
“We’ve had trouble the last two meets getting out where we needed to be. We got lost in the crowd and struggled to move up throughout the rest of the race,” Sparks said. “We’ve got the talent to be more aggressive on the front end of the race, so that’s the skill that we are going to try to work towards… trying to be more aggressive in the start.”
Sparks discussed the buildup that this meet has towards the NCAA Regional meet in two weeks.
“This will be a very similar-sized field to what we will see at the regional meet, so the strategies and the outlook is similar between the two meets,” Sparks said. “We need to run well here to build up to where we need to be at regionals, which is being top two at the regional meet.”
While being at home might be beneficial in some respects, Sparks expressed concerns with having a home meet that is this important.
“It’s nice to run on your home turf, but it’s a much different feeling to spend the day before the competition in class versus being on the road and being around your teammates and friends for 36 hours before the race,” Sparks said. “It’s nice to be familiar with the course, but there are some challenges to it as well when you are taking tests before one of your biggest races of the year.”
Sparks hopes that his team can get in the right mindset before the race, which he believes can be difficult to do at home meets.
“Some people talk about the home course advantage,” Sparks said. “It is nice to not have to hop on a plane and travel somewhere, but there are the challenges of being in class all day before and sleeping in the dorms. It’s tough to top sleeping in a hotel the night before the race.”
The women’s 6K race will begin at 10 a.m., followed by the men’s 8K race at 11 a.m. Both races can be viewed on ACC Network Extra.