Nov. 25, 2002
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - It was just the perfect ending to a great season that Notre Dame head coach Tim Connelly was looking for. After helping his team to its first BIG EAST Championship, then following up with the Great Lakes Regional title, Connelly's team ended up third at the NCAA Championship in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday afternoon. The third-place finish is the highest-ever in Notre Dame women's cross country history.
"It is a great way to finish the season," Connelly said after the race.
"We have only been competing in cross country for 15 years and our goal is to get a little bit better every year. We took a big step forward today."
Notre Dame finished with 170 team points, behind Stanford (113) and team champion BYU (85). An ominous weather forecast broke for the participating teams, as the temperature was in the 30's, but the sun was out for most of the afternoon.
Freshman Molly Huddle stepped up to lead the way for Notre Dame, finishing sixth overall and fifth in team scoring (several individual runners enter the race and do not count toward the team scoring) to post the highest finish for a women's Irish harrier at the national meet since JoAnna Deeter finished third in 1996. Huddle's 19:55.7 time was about 12 seconds behind the individual winner, Shalane Flanagan from North Carolina. Huddle's sixth-place finish also earned the rookie All-America honors.
"I thought (Molly) was capable of finishing in the top 10," Connelly said.
"She ran very intelligent today. She sat back and did not chase the leaders and kept at her own pace. She ran an awesome race."
Notre Dame's traditional top two this season have been Huddle and sophomore Lauren King and that pattern held true on Monday. King finished 19th overall, 14th in the team scoring and just 45 seconds off the winning pace.
King's 19th-place effort gives the second-year stand out from Toronto, Ontario, her second-straight cross country All-America honor. She joins Deeter ('96, '98) as the only two-time cross country All-Americans in Notre Dame women's team history.
The next Irish harrier across the finish line was senior Jennnifer Handley in 52nd place, ending up 37th in the team scoring. Handley had her eyes set on All-America honors, but just coming up short was overshadowed by the fantastic team accomplishment for the Irish.
"The future is very exciting," Connelly said after he took the winner's podium to accept the third place trophy with his team.
"We only had one senior in out top five today. The future looks great."
That bright future is echoed by the men's team, which finished 22nd in the championship meet. Freshman Tim Moore was the top Irish runner, ending up 63rd overall and 51st in the team scoring. Junior Todd Mobley was not far behind in 80th and 61st in team scoring.
The Notre Dame's men's team was one of the final teams selected for the championship field, but the 22nd-place finish proves that the team belonged in the race.
"We finished in the top eight percent of all cross country teams in the nation," men's head coach Joe Piane said after the race.
"And I don't think we ran as well as we could. But I am thrilled with our finish after thinking that we might not make the meet."
There were 31 teams entered in the men's race.
Similar to the reaction from Connelly, Piane was very happy with his team's performance and knows the future is bright for the men's team.
"We only had one senior in the race for us today," Piane said.
"We will be very strong in the future."
Top Ten Women's Teams:
1. BYU, 85 pts.
2. Stanford, 113 pts.
3. Notre Dame, 170 pts.
4. Georgetown, 214 pts.
5. Colorado, 220 pts.
6. Providence, 235 pts.
7. Arkansas, 251 pts.
8. Villanova, 256 pts.
9. Wake Forest, 328 pts.
10. Northern Arizona, 333 pts.
Notre Dame women's results (number in parenthesis indicates overall finish):
5. Molly Huddle, 19:55.7 (6)
14. Lauren King, 20:14.5 (19)
37. Jennifer Handley, 20:50.1 (52)
56. Lori King, 21:03.1 (76)
58. Stephanie Madia, 21:05.2 (78)
104. Ana Morales, 21:31.6 (132)
189. Katie Wales, 22:22.5 (225)
Top Ten Men's Teams:
1. Stanford, 47 pts.
2. Wisconsin, 107 pts.
3. Eastern Michigan, 165 pts.
4. Colorado, 190 pts.
5. Oregon, 210 pts.
6. Arkansas, 214 pts.
7. Northern Arizona, 247 pts.
8. Michigan, 309 pts.
9. Central Michigan, 337 pts.
10. Iona, 376 pts.
22. Notre Dame, 527 pts.
Notre Dame men's results (number in parenthesis indicates overall finish):
51. Tim Moore, 30:50.0 (63)
61. Todd Mobley, 30:58.9 (80)
118. David Alber, 31:35.1 (151)
144. Eric Morrison, 31:56.9 (179)
153. Ryan Johnson, 32:02.8 (188)
186. Brian Kerwin, 32:44.5 (223)
202. John Keane, 33:21.0 (239)