Feb. 6, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame cross country and track and field program recently announced five signees that will join the team for the fall of 2012, including 2011-12 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year Molly Seidel.
Seidel, who is a four-time Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association First Team All-Sate selection, went undefeated as a senior, winning her fourth consecutive Division 3 individual state title. This past cross country season Seidel won the National Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in 17:22. She also won the Foot Locker Midwest Regional Championships in 17:08. Seidel also finished third at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country-International Challenge, running the messy and semi-steeplechase 4K course in 15:16. She was the second American to cross the finish line, and placed ahead of several highly regarded freshmen collegiate cross country runners.
The Hartland, Wisc., product sports a perfect 4.0 GPA in the classroom and is a National Merit Scholarship Program Semifinalist. She also is the Vice President of the student government at University Lake School and is an active member of St. Joan of Arc church. An accomplished pianist and ukulele player, Seidel also donates her time to help The Gathering interfaith meal ministry, the Lifestriders Equine Physical Therapy Center and the Pine Lake Yacht Club as a sailing instructor.
"Molly is a really talented kid and has had a lot of success at a high level already," said women's cross country head coach Tim Connelly. "We believe she can be an impact performer that can come in immediately and help us move forward to the next level. She is also a good kid. She fits in really well at Notre Dame.
"Freshmen coming in are asked to compete at a really high level right away. We are asking them to compete against the best kids in the country. That's the level we race at. Someone that is used to that will have less of a transition than others."
Also joining the women's squad with Seidel is Dani Aragon, younger sister of current Irish standout Alexa Aragon, and Sydni Meunier.
Aragon's personal highlights include an armful of medals from the Montana High School State Track and Field Championships. In addition to running legs of the winning 4x100 and 4x400m relays, the Billings High School student won individual titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200m runs. In cross country Aragon has finished second in the last two Montana 2A state championship meets. Nationally, she finished 10th at the 2010 Nike Cross Country National Northwest Regional and 21st in the 2011 version.
"Dani is just a really talented runner. She isn't used to the level of competition she will see here, but I still expect her to come here and make an immediate impact in cross country, but definitely in the 800m and mile in track. She has Notre Dame roots (father Chuck also attended Notre Dame) and understands how special this place is."
Meunier, who is on pace to graduate from GCMS High School in Gibson City, Ill., won the Illinois 1A state titles in the 800 and 1,600m runs on the track. She has yet to run cross country due to her high school not sponsoring the sport, but Connelly expects Meunier to pick up the sport quickly.
"Sydni has never run cross country, but she should be very good in middle-distance events in track," said Connelly. "She comes from the smallest classification in Illinois, so she hasn't seen the level of competition the others have, but she has a lot of talent and potential."
Joining the men's squad, headed up by veteran coach Joe Piane, is Minnesota 2A 800-meter state champion Eric Gebeke and New Jersey cross country state champion Timothy Ball.
Gebeke, who is set to graduate from White Bear Lake Area H.S. (Minn.), won the 2011 Minnesota 2A State Championship in the 800m, finishing in a personal-best time of 1:53.39. He also ran 49.55 in the 400m at the Section 5AAA True Team Meet to finish first. Gebeke, a three-sport standout in football, basketball and track, was the starting quarterback and a team captain for the football team as a senior and had a 4.0 GPA while ranking #1 in his class heading into his senior year.
"What is intriguing about Eric is that he is a three-sport athlete," said Piane. "So he doesn't even start training until mid-March for track. That leaves the door open for a lot of improvement when he can commit the year to training for just track. The sky is definitely the limit for him."
ESPNHS and Gatorade named Ball, who is set to graduate from Piscataway High School (N.J.), the New Jersey Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. An A-student in the classroom, Ball volunteered as a youth swim instructor off the playing field. On the field, Ball won the state Meet of Champions title in 15:31 and also won the Group 4 individual state championship in 15:38. He finished third at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Championships in 15:47.6 and took 16th at the National Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.
"Tim is a very good cross country runner," said Piane. "I think he will be a very good miler and mid-distance runner for us in the future."
"Notre Dame has the best mix of academic and athletics for my future," said Ball. "Also, coming from a religious background it is a great place for that. It was a real tough decision, but Notre Dame won in the end.''