Sept. 20, 2013
By Staci Gasser
As they have on so many other occasions when hosting this annual event, the University of Notre Dame men's and women's cross country teams captured their respective team titles at the 34th annual National Catholic Championships, held Friday at the nine-hole Notre Dame Golf Course.
The Irish nabbed the top three spots in the women's race and placed six runners in the top 10 of the men's competition.
Thirty-eight Catholic universities and colleges competed in the three races, with 27 schools hailing from the Division II, Division III or NAIA ranks. Fans representing almost every school lined the final 100 yards of the course, loudly cheering their runners, despite the gloomy overcast and soggy ground.
Seniors Kelly Curran and Alexa Aragon along with junior Emily Frydrych came in first, second and third, respectively, with times of 17:17.9, 17:18.5 and 17:34.4 to pace the Irish in a field of 298 runners on the 5K course.
"It's pretty exciting to have the top three all be from our team," Aragon said. "We all did really well sticking together. I think that's the best part, not necessarily to be personally in front but to know your teammates are with you. And that helps us."
Having home course advantage didn't hurt either.
"We've raced here a lot so it a good home course advantage," Frydrych said. "It's pretty flat so the conditions weren't that bad even though it rained yesterday. We work out here so we're used to it."
Irish women's cross country head coach Tim Connelly was happy with his veteran runners but a little disappointed in his younger ones.
"I thought it was mixed result," Connelly said. "We had a group that ran really well and had a group that didn't run nearly as well as I expected. We weren't hitting on all cylinders, I can tell you that.
"It is a race to open up the lineup and compete. The one thing I saw was we have a bunch of young ones who aren't strong enough yet to train at a real high level and not be rested coming into the race. So we have to do a better job getting them ready to race."
The men's race consisted of a little tougher competition for the Irish.
"The meet is a great opportunity for the guys to prepare for the balance of the season," men's head coach Joe Piane said before the meet. "We need to run in a group and this is a great meet to practice that. We can find each other quickly, get in group and try to control the race."
Six of the Irish runners were able to get in a group up front early in the five mile race, but Sam Penzenstadler of Loyola (24:55.4) took first in a field of 260 runners.
Notre Dame's Jake Kildoo (25:05.4), Michael Clevenger (25:05.4), Martin Grady (25:05.6), Jeremy Rae (25:05.8), Walter Schafer (25:06.0) and Patrick Lesiewicz (25:09.7) nabbed the next six spots as the Irish cruised to victory.
In the open race that featured men's and women's runners racing together but running their separate distances-a 5K for women and five miles for men-the Irish came up big.
In both races, the men's and women junior varsity squads also placed in all of the top three spots.
Of the 71 runners, five Irish men placed in the top 10. Freshman Nicolas Laureno (26:04.5) took first, followed by sophomore Kevin Durham (26:04.6) and freshman Christopher Quinn (26:18.5) in second and third.
On the women's side, six Notre Dame runners placed in the top 10 of the 106 runners. Freshman Gabrielle Thivierge had a huge lead in the race, coming in at 18:03.4. Sophomore Megan Kilbride (18:48.5) and freshmen Elli Brady (18:56.2) and Catherine Lombardo (18:56.4) came in second, third and fourth, respectively.
Most of the Irish runners were happy with their times and technique, although the runners used this meet more as a warm-up for the next meets that will consist of much stronger competition.
"I think the biggest thing was working together and finding each other in the race," Curran said. "There were a little less people up front so it's easier to find each other to compete well as a team, as one. We did that pretty well this race. It's the beginning of the season and we're happy with it so far."
Both Irish squads will be in action in two weeks with an elite field of runners set to compete in the 58th annual Notre Dame Invitational on Friday, Oct. 4.
2013 National Catholic Championship Team Results (Men)
2013 National Catholic Championship Team Results (Women)
Top 10 Individual Results
Men's Division I
Women's Division I
Men's - JV
Women's - JV