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ND Cross Country

Cross country teams win regional meet to qualify for nationals

| Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Both the women’s and men’s cross country teams placed first at the Great Lakes Regional in Evansville this past weekend, earning a trip to the NCAA Championships. The men finished with 37 points and the women with 56 points. Both teams will head into the national meet on Saturday with high expectations, considering the men are currently ranked fourth in the country and the women are 10th.

On the men’s side, the Irish packed up and put six runners in the top 12. The Irish were led in the 10K race by senior Matthew Carmody, who finished fourth in a time of 30:00.5. He was closely followed by graduate student Yared Nuguse (5th, 30:00.6), graduate student Andrew Alexander (7th, 30:01.3), graduate student Anthony Russo (10th, 30:03.5), senior Danny Kilrea (11th, 30:03.9) and senior Dylan Jacobs (12th, 30:04.1).

Head men’s cross country coach Sean Carlson said he thought his team did a great job of packing up and not exerting themselves too much ahead of this coming weekend’s national meet.

“We wanted to conserve as much energy as we possibly could leading into the national meet,” Carlson said. “It was a fun weekend for the boys to run together and continue to build confidence and momentum for the postseason. It was just a great day and nobody looked out of control.”

Carlson discussed the lofty goals he has set for his team ahead of the national meet.

“We’re hoping that we can do a very good job of getting out in position early on so that we put ourselves in a position to execute the goals we have for ourselves as a program, which is to compete for a national title,” Carlson said. “It certainly means that a lot of things have to go right for that to actually happen, but when we are competing for a national title, I think it’s realistic to think we can finish on the podium.”

The Irish finished second at last year’s national meet after flying under the radar for most of the year, but Carlson doesn’t believe that this year’s higher expectations change much ahead of the meet.

“I think we have tried to keep a very level head and very similar perspective,” Carlson said. “We did really well a year ago. We were smart in how we raced and stayed true to who we were and we’re going to go into this year with more or less the same expectation.”

Carlson talked about how Yared Nuguse decided to come back to school after making the Olympics last year with the goal of winning a NCAA national title for Notre Dame.

“He was an Olympian that came back to school to make this last run at cross country,” Carlson said.

Beyond Nuguse, Carlson discussed how this is the ‘last dance’ in a sense for his team that is full of veteran leaders in Danny Kilrea, Andrew Alexander, Matthew Carmody, Dylan Jacobs and Anthony Russo.

“They’re all mature, older guys who have really come back for this being the goal,” Carlson said.

The women also won the regional meet this past weekend, and they were led by senior Maddy Denner, who won the 6K race in a time of 19:55.8. She was closely followed by junior Olivia Markezich, who crossed the line in second in a time of 19:57.7. Rounding out the top five for the Irish were sophomore Erin Strzelecki (10th, 20:12.1), graduate student Lauren Bailey (13th, 20:14.2) and graduate student Maddie King (30th, 20:37.3).

Head women’s cross country coach Matt Sparks said he was excited to see his team have their best performance of the year so far.

“The big takeaway from the weekend was that their fitness and confidence finally matched up,” Sparks said. “Our fitness was growing, but I don’t think we were confident at the conference meet. I think Friday was a reflection of those entities finding themselves at the same time and allowing us to be successful.”

Sparks thought Denner did a great job of being confident and going out fast.

“She led every step of the race after 600 meters,” Sparks said. “That’s not something she’s traditionally done, and I think her fitness and confidence finally meshed and found a way to get to where she was capable of being.”

Sparks described Markezich’s big finish which allowed her to finish in second place.

“Olivia was sixth place with 400 meters to go and she had a huge finish to get up to that second place spot,” Sparks said.

Sparks knows that it is vital to go out aggressively this weekend at the national meet.

“We still need to get out aggressive similarly to what we have talked about all year,” Sparks said. “One of the bigger challenges of this meet is the sheer volume of people. Our third through seventh runners are going to have to try to all be in the top 100. And that’s a tough position to find yourself into. Recognizing where you are in the race is a skill that we’ve talked about quite a bit this year.”

The women raced this course last year and had a very poor performance, but Sparks is confident that last year’s performance won’t negatively affect this weekend’s race.

“Now we are a much different team,” Sparks said. “We have at least seen the course. We just haven’t raced it well. But at least we know the lay of the land.”

Sparks said he is excited to see Maddy Denner compete in the championship setting.

“Maddy Denner has become a different person in the last two weeks to the point where now she knows she can run with anybody in the country,” he said. “She was pretty comfortable on Friday and this will be the first time for her to work towards being an All-American in cross country and see her continue her rise to prominence on a stage like this.”

The women’s 6K race will take place at 10:20 a.m. Saturday, followed by the men’s 10K race at 11:10 a.m. Both races can be watched on ESPNU or through the ESPN app.

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

Contact Nate