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Irish perform well at Lenny Lyles Invitational

The Irish track and field team was back in action this weekend at the PNC Lenny Lyles Indoor Invitational in Louisville, Kentucky. The Irish had a strong showing, finishing with 23 top-ten finishes and four event titles.

The strength of the team’s distance program was on full display in the 3000m, where freshman Ethan Coleman, junior Carter Cheeseman and graduate student Kevin Berry all set facility records. Coleman came across the line first in a blazing-fast time of 7:58, which was good for the ninth fastest time in school history. 

Notre Dame head coach Matt Sparks was very pleased with the performance of his athletes in the 3000m. 

“Our men’s distance runners are starting to come around,” Sparks said. “It was really nice to see Carter Cheeseman and Ethan Coleman in the 3K both have breakthrough performances. That’s Ethan’s first race in uniform as a freshman. He’s ninth in school history with that performance in his first college race.”

In the mile, the Irish tallied another victory with freshman John Schuler crossing the line in a time of 4:07.22. Freshman CJ Singleton finished second behind Schuler with a time of 4:08.66.

Sparks was excited about Schuler’s performance and the success of his young men’s distance team.

“We got another win from John Schuler in the mile, which was a facility record. We have a good group of young men’s distance runners who are freshmen. They’re still trying to figure some things out, but they are doing some big things already,” Sparks said.

Although the Irish have had a fantastic distance team for years, many of the team’s top athletes have graduated in recent years.

“On the national stage of cross country the last couple of years, we have been able to finish top ten to fifteen on both sides, but that was with veteran leaders like Maddy Denner on the women’s side and Yared Nuguse, Dylan Jacobs and Danny Kilrea [on the men’s side],” Sparks said.

Sparks acknowledged that this season has largely been a transition year for a men’s team that is in search of new leaders. One of these leaders, sophomore Carter Solomon, will be making his track debut in the coming weeks.

“The men’s team especially this year has been a bit of a transition with some new faces stepping up in Carter Solomon, who will make his [track-season] debut in a couple of weeks,” Sparks said.

Although there have been some growing pains, Sparks is excited that his younger athletes are gaining confidence and performing better as of late.

“It’s a bit of a growing pain trying to get those guys to assert themselves and find the confidence that the guys before them had,” Sparks said. “We have seen them start to come around, with some of the freshmen guys finding their way.”

On the women’s side, sophomore Sophie Novak also won the mile with a time of 4:47.76. Sparks said he hopes that Novak can build off of this success in the coming weeks.

“Sophie Novak is a sophomore that is starting to find her way to keep up with the women’s team. In the coming weeks, we just want to see her keep being more competitive,” Sparks said.

In the shot put, junior Michael Shoaf won the event with a throw of 18.84m. Shoaf also took second in the weight throw with a throw of 19.78m.

Sparks described Shoaf as a leader for the entire men’s track team.

 “Our go-to leader of our entire men’s track team is Michael Shoaf, and he just continues to find ways to win, week after week,” Sparks said. 

Sparks hopes Shoaf can continue to move up the NCAA list and ultimately reach the national meet.

“We just need to get him to move up on the NCAA list a little bit more,” Sparks said. “I think he’s 21st right now. Top 16 is what we are working towards to try to make the national meet. He’s winning, but we just need to keep finding some more distance to get him in there.”

Sparks also discussed sophomore Jadin O’Brien’s consistency across the board, which is necessary when she competes in the heptathlon.

“Jadin O’Brien is super consistent now that she is an upperclassman within the program, and she has been fourth at the national meet two years in a row,” Sparks said. “To work towards a national championship, you need to be consistent week after week as she competes in a variety of events every weekend.”

Sparks praised O’Brien’s ability to compete with athletes in a variety of areas to help prepare her for the heptathlon at nationals in Albuquerque.

“You may not see her winning an event, but she is competing at the highest level with people that are special in their events. She competes with the best high jumpers on our team everywhere we go, as well as the shot put. She’s not throwing the shot put at the national meet, but she’s competing with national-level shot putters week in and week out,” Sparks said. “When she’s able to do that, we expect big things from her when we get to Albuquerque in a month or so.”

Contact Nate Moller at nmoller2@nd.edu.

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Track and field competes at Notre Dame Invitational

The Notre Dame track and field team competed this weekend at the Notre Dame Invitational with the women’s team finishing second and the men finishing third. The Irish also collected six event titles across both teams.

Although some athletes competed last weekend in Ann Arbor, this was the first competition of 2023 for the majority of Irish athletes. Head coach Matt Sparks used this meet as a tune-up to get back in the swing of competition.

“It’s a good rust buster. We had a small group compete last week in Michigan,” Sparks said.

Sparks acknowledged that his team had a later start to practice this season because of the academic year starting later.

“One unique thing this year is that the academic year started later, so our practice started a little bit later than a lot of the country and teams we compete against,” Sparks said.

Saturday’s meet served as a litmus test and a great opportunity for the Irish to measure where they were after the holiday break.

“This first meet was good to see where everybody’s fitness is and what everybody did over break and grow from there,” Sparks said. “It’s a bit like a pretest at school. We had our pretest, and in about five weeks we will have our conference meet and national meet and see where everybody is.”

Sparks expects all of his athletes to continue to improve as the season goes on.

“There are still a lot of steps to take. We aren’t going to put a lot of emphasis on the good or bad that happened today. We all just need to get better from here,” Sparks said.

Sparks noted a few top performers from the meet. “In the field, [junior thrower] Blake Kusky had a big throw in the weight throw for him. It was a big PR,” Sparks said. Kusky’s throw was a personal record of 18.98m in the weight throw to place third.

Junior thrower Michael Shoaf also had a strong performance in the weight throw, finishing second with a throw of 20.49m. On the women’s side, junior thrower Emma Albano placed third in the weight throw with a distance of 15.89m. Albano also claimed second in the shot put with a toss of 12.83m.

Sparks also praised the performance of sophomore distance runner Sonia Chisholm. Making her Irish debut, Chisholm won the women’s 3000m race with a time of 9:16.46.

“In her first track meet for Notre Dame, [Sonia] ran one of the top ten fastest times in school history,” Sparks said.

The Irish took the two through four spots in the women’s 3000m race as well. Senior Katie Thronson, sophomore Sophie Novak, and sophomore Erin Strzlecki all finished right behind Chisholm. 

The Irish women also took second through fourth in the mile. Graduate student Anna Sophia Keller led the way for the Irish, finishing second in a time of 4:48.02. Graduate student Katie Ryan and sophomore Molly Grant followed Keller, finishing with times of 4:55.19 and 4:56.11, respectively. On the men’s side, junior Carter Cheeseman took first in the mile with a time of 4:07.91.

In the 400m run, sophomore Eve Balseiro took home first place with a time of 55.35. On the men’s side, Joey Dobrydney took third place with a time of 49.16.

In the long jump, sophomore Jadin O’Brien took first place with a mark of 5.78m. Sophomores Alaina Brady and Kendall Burgess took third and fourth in the event with marks of 5.60m. 

In the women’s high jump, sophomore Madison Schmidt won the event with a mark of 1.72m. Senior Arianna Martinez took second with a mark of 1.67m. 

Sparks discussed the varying goals of the individual athletes who competed this weekend.

“The majority of the team is working towards the conference meet and how they can contribute to the team’s success at conference,” Sparks said. “We have 5-10 athletes who have nationals aspirations,” Sparks said. “The regular season builds towards putting themselves in a position to be competitive in Albuquerque in March.”

The Irish are back in action next weekend at the Lenny Lyles Invitational in Louisville, which is where the conference meet will be later on in the season.

“It will be nice to get on that track. ACCs are going to be there, so we will get a feel for what that facility is going to be like,” Sparks said. “It’s just another opportunity to feel out where everybody is at the time,” Sparks said.

Contact Nate Moller at nmoller2@nd.edu.

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Irish men win, women take fourth at competitive Joe Piane Invitational

On Friday morning, Notre Dame cross country hosted the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational. The No. 14 men’s team used a balanced effort to win the meet, while the No. 8 women battled a trio of Top-10 opponents and earned a fourth-place finish.

The meet began with the women’s 5000m, one of the most highly anticipated regular season races in the country this season. Notre Dame head coach Matt Sparks spoke after the meet about the valuable experience that comes from facing elite teams like No. 1 NC State, No. 3 New Mexico and No. 10 Alabama.

“[The meet] gives us a taste of where we need to be [and] what we need to work toward over the next eight weeks as we prepare for the national championship,” Sparks said. “It’s the nice thing about these early season meets. You get a measuring stick against the best teams in the country.”

Defending national champion NC State put three runners in the top six to take first place with a score of 55, followed closely by New Mexico’s 68 and Alabama’s 70. Notre Dame placed fourth with 144 points.

The Irish were led by a strong eighth-place finish from All-American junior Olivia Markezich. Also scoring for the Irish were graduate student Anna Sophia Keller and senior Katie Thronson in 24th and 25th, graduate student Maddy Denner in 35th and sophomore Erin Strzelecki in 54th. Denner, an All-American, has been hampered in training with a minor injury and should provide the team with a big boost when fully healthy. Sparks praised Markezich’s performance, noting that her ability to run with the front pack at big meets stems from her mental toughness as well as her fitness.

“Over the course of the last four years, she has developed the confidence to go out in the front of that lead group,” Sparks explained. “To see her step up early in the year and assert herself really just shows me how she’s grown as a person since she’s been here.”

The Irish still have work to do in order to close the gap with the teams that defeated them, but at this stage of the season, that is a position they are comfortable with being in. Last year, Notre Dame finished fourteenth at the same meet and went on to place fifth at the NCAA Championship, so a fourth-place result is encouraging for the team.

“I’m really excited about where we are,” Sparks said. “A year ago, we had a lot of things on the list that we knew we could improve upon and it took us eight weeks to figure them out. This year, we’ve got a shorter list, so we’ll just work through those things over the coming month.”

On the men’s side, an inexperienced Notre Dame team needed some time to get acclimated in their first major meet of the season, but used a strong finish to take the victory in the 5-mile race.

“There was some concern how the younger guys that we were counting on were going to step up in a pressure situation like we had this weekend, and they put the coaches’ minds at ease by the way they were able to finish the last half of the race,” Sparks said. “They went out a little bit conservative, which had our nerves a little high, but they displayed a lot of confidence … and ran like mature veterans.”

Running in front for Notre Dame was graduate student Kevin Berry, who finished tenth in his first time suiting up for the Irish following his transfer from Princeton, where he set a school record in the 5k and was an All-Ivy League Performer.

“[Kevin] is new to elite running. He was not a highly recruited kid out of high school,” Sparks said. “The Princeton staff did a great job of developing him and he’s taken some steps since he’s been here, really finding himself as a runner. He’s run fast times, but he’s never competed on a national level at the end of the season, so we need to help nurture him to be successful when it matters most.”

Just behind Berry, Irish sophomore Carter Solomon and freshman Izaiah Steury finished less than a second apart in thirteenth and fourteenth places just two weeks after the duo took first and second at the National Catholic Invitational. While most Notre Dame freshman are redshirted to allow further time for development, Steury immediately stepped in as one of the Irish’s leading runners.

“We knew it would be hard to keep him on the bench,” Sparks said. “He’s trained so well over the last month that we knew we needed him in the lineup.”

Sparks credits Steury’s focused mindset with having him ready to compete at an elite collegiate level.

“He just goes into this zone. You can see it in his eyes,” Sparks said. “He flips the switch when it’s time to compete. It’s a unique skill set that will help carry him far in the sport.”

Beyond their top-three finishers, Notre Dame’s depth was the difference maker that guided them to victory, even without one of their top runners in All-American sophomore Josh Methner, who is expected to debut for the Irish at their next meet. Alabama put three runners in front of Notre Dame’s first, and Tennessee added two more, but strong efforts from the Irish’s fourth and fifth men, senior Matthew Carmody and junior Carter Cheeseman, pushed them over the top.

“The thing we take a lot of pride in is the depth of our team, and that’s what you saw that allowed us to win,” Sparks said. “We feel like we’ve got ten to fifteen guys that are almost interchangeable, that if we need somebody to step up, we can always call on the next guy up and be successful.”

The Irish now turn their attention to their final regular season meet, the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 14. The Nuttycombe field is expected to be very strong, as over 20 of the top 30 teams from last year’s NCAA Championship on both the men’s and women’s sides will be racing. Notre Dame will look for continued improvement in their final race before beginning postseason preparations.

Contact Matthew Crow at mcrow@nd.edu

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Irish cross country dominates, Belles battle at National Catholic Invite

Notre Dame cross country swept Friday’s National Catholic Invite, with both the women’s and men’s teams winning handily in their home opener. A field of 15 Catholic institutions from around the country (14 in the men’s race) was no match for the nationally ranked Irish squads, both of whom won by over 50 points.

The afternoon meet began with the women’s race, which saw several top Irish runners make their season debut. The No. 6 Irish got into a strong position right off of the opening gun, with a pack of five Notre Dame runners behind Loras runner Kassie Parker, the defending Division III individual national champion. The top six runners were on their own for a majority of the race, with an advantage of nearly thirty seconds over the rest of the competition.

Over the course of the race, the Irish runners fought to close the gap, but Parker never relinquished the lead as she crossed the finish line first in a time of 17:02.1, a school record and a huge PR in the 5k. From there, it was all Irish, as six Notre Dame runners in a row followed Parker. Junior All-American Olivia Markezich finished in second in 17:13.0 and was closely followed by senior Katie Thronson and sophomore Sonia Chisholm (who ran unattached), a pair of transfers who provided strong performances in their Irish debuts.

Notre Dame sophomore Erin Strzelecki earned fifth place and graduate student Anna Sophia Keller and freshman Sophie Novak took sixth and seventh to complete the Irish’s front pack. Of the Irish’s first six finishers, all but Novak — who took third at the Winrow-Valparaiso Invite earlier in the year — were racing for the first time this season as a team expected to contend for ACC and national championships began to show its strength.

Saint Mary’s made the short trip to Notre Dame’s Burke Golf Course to compete and the Belles ran well against a competitive field, finishing in fourteenth place. Belles head coach Jackie Bauters praised the team’s performance after the meet, especially given the extremely warm conditions.

“Overall, I feel like we ran well,” Bauters said. “Some people had PRs today, some people had season bests, and I feel like we ran tough. It was hot for everybody, and I think it’s hard to perform for some people in the heat. I was really happy that we had a lot of good packs and pairs.”

Saint Mary’s was led by sophomore Amanda Tracy, who finished seventy-first with a time of 20:20. The other four scorers all came in within a ten second period. Senior Anna Demars took 80, sophomore Susanna Bernovich was 84 and in 86 and 87 were freshman Isabelle Auch and senior Angela Bannan.

Bauters emphasized the importance of the runners staying close together and pushing each other, especially in a meet against unfamiliar opponents where it can be difficult to gauge position against the rest of the field.

“We don’t compete against any of these teams otherwise during the year, so it’s not something where we’re trying to be super competitive with a [specific] team,” Bauters said. “We really wanted to see our packs continue to work together and we did that today.”

As Saint Mary’s shifts their attention to the NCAA Division III Preview meet in two weeks, they will look to build on this effort while working hard in order to reach the next level.

“We have to get more comfortable in that second mile,” Bauters explained. “I think that’s where, mentally and physically, it just drops off. We’re going to be working to get them uncomfortable for a while so they can get more comfortable [during races].”

The men’s race was next, and the No. 13 Irish were in a class of their own from start to finish as they took each of the top ten places for the second meet in a row, having also accomplished this feat at Valparaiso in early September. Just like the women’s team, the Notre Dame lineup featured several top runners in their first appearances of the season. One of those runners, sophomore Carter Solomon, took home the victory, finishing the five-mile course in 24:35.0. Freshman Izaiah Steury, coming off of a win in his first ever college race at Valparaiso, pushed Solomon all the way to the line and finished in a close second (24:39.7).

The seemingly endless string of Notre Dame runners continued, as the Irish put eight more across the line before there was a single finisher from an opposing team. Junior Carter Cheeseman finished in third, and senior Matthew Carmody and sophomore Ryan Schumacher were hot on his heels to seal the perfect score.

Up next for Notre Dame is their final home meet of the season, the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invite on Sept. 30. The Irish will be put to the test as the meet is expected to bring one of the deepest and most talented fields of any regular season meet in the country this year. On Oct. 1, Saint Mary’s will head to Olivet College, the site of this year’s Division III National Championship, for the Division III Preview meet.

Contact Matthew Crow at mcrow@nd.edu.

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Irish cross country prepares to host National Catholic invite

Notre Dame cross country will serve as host for the National Catholic Invite on Friday afternoon at Burke Golf Course. The Invite will be the home opener for the Irish. Both the men’s and women’s squads will be heavy favorites coming into a meet that the program has historically dominated as they look to build on season-opening victories. The meet will feature a field of 16 Catholic institutions, several of which are located in the Midwest region. The women’s race is a 5K, while the men’s race will be five miles.

The Notre Dame men’s team enters the meet ranked No. 13 nationally after taking each of the top ten places in a strong showing at the Winrow-Valparaiso Invite. This was made all the more impressive by the fact that the Irish were not at full strength for the race. They rested several of their top athletes to provide experience for a talented but youthful group of underclassmen. These runners will be counted on to play major roles for the team during this season and beyond.

Given the opportunity to impact Notre Dame’s team score, the highly touted group of Irish freshmen stepped up. Izaiah Steury won the race, Ethan Coleman finished in fourth, and several other freshmen placed in the top ten. Notre Dame’s more experienced runners also performed well. Juniors Carter Cheeseman and Jake Renfree and sophomore Robbie Cozean earned top-five finishes.

Friday’s meet will likely feature a similar lineup for the Irish men, as the team is unlikely to race its full top seven until closer to the postseason. At last year’s Catholic Invite, Notre Dame won the race handily, taking the top four positions and posting a near-perfect score of 16. Top finishers junior Tom Seitzer, Cozean, sophomore Carter Solomon and senior Quinn Gallagher all return. The Irish should once again put a large pack at the front of the field.

On the women’s side, the No. 6 Irish have similar goals for the Invite after a comprehensive opening-meet victory against competitive Purdue and Western Michigan teams. A more veteran team than the men, Notre Dame placed five in the top ten, led by graduate student Katie Ryan, who placed second. Freshmen Sophie Novak and Charlotte Turesson came in third and fifth, respectively. The Irish victory came without appearances from All-Americans graduate student Maddy Denner and junior Olivia Markezich, along with other returners who will begin racing later in the year.

The Notre Dame women enter the Catholic Invite as the 14-time solo defending champions. They’ll strive to make it fifteen and to match their performance from last year. Then, they earned a perfect score by taking each of the top five spots. Last year’s race was won by freshman Kate Wiser, who emerged from a strong pack of Notre Dame runners. That included a pair of returners on this year’s team along with Wiser – Denner, who finished as runner-up, and senior Katie Rose Blachowicz, who placed fourth. None of these three runners competed at Valparaiso earlier in September, so the Irish lineup will likely look quite different from last year’s in their quest to retain the title.

Saint Mary’s will also be in the women’s field, aiming to continue a strong start to the season in what will be their third meet. The Belles placed sixth at last weekend’s Calvin Knight invitational, competing against several nationally ranked Division II and III programs. Junior Amanda Tracy led the team in the 6k race with a 31st place finish. Sophomore Susanna Bernovich, freshman Isabelle Auch, and senior Angela Bannan finished as a pack behind Tracy in 48th, 49th, and 51st, respectively. Saint Mary’s finished in 13th place out of 15 teams in last year’s Catholic Invite. A 59th-place effort from Bannan paced the team. The Belles look to better that result on Friday.

Temperatures at race-time are expected to be in the mid-eighties. The warm conditions will test the toughness of the Irish in their final “tune-up” race before diving into the challenging slate of meets that the second half of the season will hold.

The National Catholic Invite will begin with the women’s race at 3:30 p.m. on Friday at Notre Dame’s Burke Golf Course. The men’s race will follow at 4:15 p.m., and the awards ceremony will be at 5 p.m.

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Notre Dame XC starts season at Winrow-Valparaiso Invite

Notre Dame cross country got its 2022 season underway on Friday, competing in the Winrow-Valparaiso Invite just 58.7 miles west of South Bend. The Fighting Irish are no strangers to the Valpo course, having opened the season there all but twice in the 21st century (2002 and 2020). Both the men’s and women’s teams – coming off top-10 finishes at the 2021 NCAA Championships – flexed their muscles with a sweep of this year’s invite, even with a host of new names leading the charge.

On the men’s side, a seventh consecutive Winrow-Valparaiso title may be just another feather in the cap. But Friday’s triumph is especially relevant to the program’s development. Much of Notre Dame’s success this fall will hinge upon its ability to replace the star-powered core of Dylan Jacobs, Danny Kilrea, and Yares Nuguse; the performance of ND’s highly-touted recruiting class provided a strong first step toward accomplishing that. Freshman Izaiah Steury, an Indiana native, took home 1st place with a time of 17:52.3 in the six-kilometer race.

Nine more Domers followed in a pack to paint the top ten blue and gold – junior Carter Cheeseman (17:52.9), sophomore Robbie Cozean (17:59.3), freshman Ethan Coleman (17:59.6), junior Jake Renfree (18:06.3), freshman Ryan Schumacher (18:07.3), freshman Gabe Hinrichs (18:11.8), freshman Daelen Ackley (18:22.6), and junior Henry Chapman (18:29.3). Chapman also competed in last season’s invite, and his 2022 time would have actually won what was a significantly slower race in 2021. The men’s team was rounded out by freshman Luke Schildmeyer, who checked in at 18:44.2 to claim 12th place as the Irish cleared Purdue by a whopping 49 points. 

The women’s team, returning several key pieces from a late-blooming 2021 team, reclaimed the invite crown from the Boilermakers after a second-place result last September. Graduate student Katie Ryan paced the squad with an 18:10.7 in the five-kilometer race, crossing the finish line behind only Makayla Perez of Western Michigan.

Behind her, a collection of Fighting Irish runners populated the top 20. Freshman Sophie Novak (3rd, 18:16.3), freshman Charlotte Turesson (5th, 18:22.0), freshman Molly Grant (7th, 18:39.0), freshman Elizabeth Schmidt (18:44.3), senior Emily Eberhart (11th, 19:05.0), freshman Paige Grant (14th, 19:17.8), sophomore Isalina Coleman (15th, 19:28.3), and junior Catherine Coffey (19th, 19:53.6) delivered Notre Dame it’s third women’s victory in the last four meets at Valparaiso.

The Irish topped Purdue by 19 points and Western Michigan by 26 to secure a golden start to 2022. Ryan, Eberhart, and Coffey all ran there last year too when the event was comparatively faster for the women (this year’s 2nd place time would have placed 9th at the 2021 invite).

After Friday’s meet, Notre Dame cross country is already a quarter of the way through its regular season schedule. Next up are two home contests – the National Catholic Invite on September 16, and the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invite on September 30 – before a trip to Madison for the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invite on October 14.

Tyler Reidy

Contact Tyler at treidy3@nd.edu