ND Cross Country
Cross country men defend ACC title in dominating fashion, women finish fifth
Nate Moller | Thursday, November 4, 2021
The men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the ACC Championships this past Friday at the Burke Golf Course with the men successfully defending their ACC title and the women finishing fifth in the meet. The men won the title in dominating fashion, beating second place Syracuse by a score of 32-84.
Head men’s coach Sean Carlson was very pleased with his team’s performance on Friday, but he was especially pleased with his top three runners in senior Dylan Jacobs (2nd, 23:23.0), senior Danny Kilrea (4th, 23:32.6) and graduate student Yared Nuguse (5th, 23:38.3).
“The boys ran a really smart race with a lot of packs together. I was really pleased with our front three. They showed that they’re the low scores that we are going to need at nationals.”
This was Nuguse’s first race of the season, and Carlson discussed the importance of his solid performance.
“Obviously it was Yared’s first race back, so that was a great rust buster for him,” Carlson said. “I am excited to see what the next three weeks hold for him.”
Carlson was also happy with the performance of sophomore Josh Methner, who also competed for the first time this season, finishing tenth overall in a time of 23:55.6.
“To show up and be top ten, that was fantastic. We really needed that,” Carlson said.
Rounding out the scoring for the Irish was senior Matthew Carmody, who placed eleventh in a time of 23:56.4. The other Irish runners receiving All-Conference honors were graduate students Andrew Alexander (15th, 23:58.4), junior Jake Renfree (16th, 24:04.2) and graduate student Anthony Russo (19th, 24:10.2).
The success of these eight runners showed Carlson the depth that his team possesses.
“The most exciting thing was the depth that we saw with eight guys that were all conference. We put five guys in front of most team’s four,” Carlson said. “Depth was a big part because I think it will bode well for us come NCAAs. It allows us to maybe rest someone at regionals, and it allows for us to have a little bit of margin for error at the national meet.”
Carlson discussed how this depth creates a sense of confidence in everyone.
“It creates a sense of confidence in everyone when you have that many guys running well all at the same time,” Carlson said. “It creates momentum and the confidence that we’re all coming on at the right time and doing the right things.”
Carlson was happy his team could win in dominating fashion to build confidence before the regional and national meets.
“For the national meet, it’s really important to have that momentum,” Carlson said. “But then also to just reaffirm who we are at the conference level. We are the ones that are expected to win and people have to fight up to beat us. This is the way we want it to be. We want to be the ones with the targets on our back at the conference meet every year.”
The women’s team finished fifth at the meet, and head women’s cross country coach Matt Sparks was pretty pleased with his team’s success overall.
“The five that scored for us really stepped up from where they were two weeks earlier, so we are getting better week by week,” Sparks said. “We just need to take another big jump at regionals to lock us a place at the national meet.”
The Irish were led by senior Maddy Denner (ninth, 20:33.2) and junior Olivia Markezich (12th, 20:48.8), and Sparks was happy with their performances.
“Our leaders are starting to assert themselves where we would expect them to be,” Sparks said. “Olivia Markezich and Maddy Denner running in all conference slots are where we’d expect them to be all year. And they will continue to improve.”
Sparks thought that sophomore Erin Strzelecki stepped up well for the Irish as well. Strzelecki was the fourth Irish runner and finished 30th overall in a time of 21:02.8.
“The one that stepped up for us comparatively to where she has been in previous weeks was Erin Strzelecki,” Sparks said. “Running in that fourth spot for us, she really gained a lot of confidence in herself after what she did on Friday.”
Graduate student Lauren Bailey (27th, 20:58.3) and graduate student Maddie King (43rd, 21:16.6) were the third and fifth runners for the Irish on Friday, but Sparks acknowledged that the Irish will need more from their fifth runner going forward.
“We just need to get our fifth runner up closer to where the other four are,” Sparks said. “[Senior] Katie Rose Blachowicz is someone that is a national qualifier on the track for us. The fitness is there and we will see how she can perform in two weeks.”
Sparks felt that his team had their best strategic race of the year so far on Friday.
“We got out aggressive, which was what we wanted to do, which is something that we missed the last two weeks. We gave ourselves the chance to be successful, which is something that we haven’t done in the other two large meets that we competed in,” Sparks said. “We feel that now we can analyze our fitness better and make some adjustments over the next two weeks.”
It should be noted that the Irish competed without freshman Kate Wiser on Friday, who was the top runner for the Irish at the beginning of the season. Although Sparks hopes that she will be back for the Regional meet, he is not sure if she will compete.
Both teams will compete in the Midwest NCAA Cross Country Regional on November 12th in Evansville, Indiana for a spot at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.