Aug. 31, 2012
VALPARAISO, Ind. - The Notre Dame men's and women's cross country teams each notched second-place finishes at the Crusader Open in Valparaiso on Friday night in the season-opener for both squads at Sunset Hills Farm. The Purdue men and women took home the team crowns, edging the Irish by just two and six points, respectively.
The Irish men dominated the leaderboard, taking six of the top 10 spots and eight of the top 14, while junior Meg Ryan (2nd in 17:48.3, just two seconds off the pace) and freshman Sydni Meunier (3rd, 18:10.2) helped the women claim two of the top three places.
"It was a fine opener," said men's head coach Joe Piane. "We will be significantly better down the road, but we had some runners do very well today."
Ryan's second-place finish marked her first race since the 2010 Great Lakes Regional after missing the 2011 season with injury. Meunier, meanwhile, was running her first cross country race...ever. The Melvin, Ill., product was an accomplished track athlete in high school but had never before run cross country.
"It was quite a debut for Sydni," said women's head coach Tim Connelly. "We were giving her a bit of a crash course in cross country today. We expect her to be one of our top contributors this season and it was good to get her some race experience."
On the men's side, upperclassmen led the way as senior Jeff MacMillan (third, 19:20.7), junior Patrick Lesiewicz (fourth, 19:25.8) and junior DJ Thornton (fifth, 19:32.6) all finished in the top five in the 6K race. MacMillan bested his 2011 finish at the event by 10 spots, while Lesiewicz (third in 2011) and Thornton (fifth) each notched top-five finishes for a second straight year.
Sophomore Johnny Fuller took home eighth (19:46.4) in his Irish debut and was followed by sophomores Christopher Quinn (19:49.4) and Jason Hoard (20:01.8) in ninth and 10th, respectively. Freshman Josh O'Brien (20:09.8) took 12th in his first race with Notre Dame.
Freshman Jack Riely (14th, 20:12.3) and sophomore Kevin Byrne (29th, 22:19.0) also made their collegiate debuts in the 36-member race. Purdue finished with 27 points, followed by Notre Dame (29) and Valparaiso (85). Purdue Calumet also participated in the race, but had only four runners and thus was not given a team score (places of top five runners are used to determine the team total).
Sophomore Katie Moran was the third finisher for the women's squad, placing sixth (18:20.9) among the 60 runners in the race after she clocked in at 41st (81 runners) at the 2011 Crusader Open. Sophomore Katherine Stultz also bettered her 2011 mark, finishing in 10th (18:31.5), while freshman Abbey Murphy (18:54.8) took 12th to round out the scoring for Notre Dame.
Senior Angela Ryck (14th, 19:03.4) and sophomore Megan Heeder (20th, 19:24.2) were next to cross the line for the Irish and were followed by junior Ryan Russ (22nd, 19:29.9). Freshman Jessica Balko (34th, 20:27) and sophomore Karen Lesiewicz (48th, 21:36.1) - the younger sister of Patrick on the men's team - made their collegiate debuts on the evening.
Notre Dame (29 points) sat behind Purdue (27) and ahead of Western Michigan (89), Valparaiso (107) and Purdue Calumet (149) at the end of the women's 5K race. Samantha Walkow of Purdue (17:46.1) took the women's individual crown, while Boiler Matt McClintock (18:54.8) claimed the men's title.
"We had a handful of runners run really well," said Connelly. "We just needed a little more to be able to top Purdue today."
Notre Dame held out all of its runners from last year's NCAA Championship meets on Friday in an effort to give some of the younger athletes collegiate race experience. The Irish return 10 runners (four men, six women) out of the 14 who competed at NCAAs last year, leading to preseason rankings for both the men's (25th) and women's (22nd) squads. It marks the first time both teams have been among the preseason top 25 since 2005, when the ND men finished third at NCAAs - their highest finish since winning the 1957 national title - and the Irish women took seventh for a fourth consecutive top-10 finish.
The Notre Dame harriers return to action in two weeks when they host the National Catholic Championships on Sept. 14 on the Burke Golf Course on campus.
Women's team finishes
Men's team finishes
Women's individual top 10 (5K); 36 total runners
Men's individual top 10 (6K); 60 total runners