Aug. 30, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The 2012 Notre Dame cross country season will open on Friday in a manner that has become familiar to the Irish over the past decade: namely a one-hour trip west to Valparaiso's Crusader Open.
This will be the 10th consecutive season (and 13th time in 14 years) the Irish have kicked off the campaign at the event, which is in its 24th running in 2012. This year's version of the Crusader Open gets underway at 5 p.m. CT at Sunset Hills Farm in Valparaiso, Ind., with the 5K women's race, while the 6K men's challenge follows at 5:45.
Notre Dame has had great success in the meet in the past, with the Irish men winning the team crown six times in the last eight seasons and the women doing so four times in the past five trips.
On the individual side, only once since 1999 have the Notre Dame men failed to place a runner in the top three (2008, when Kevin Veselik led the team by finishing fifth), and likewise for the women (2005, Ann Mazur in sixth). Notre Dame has captured seven individual men's crowns and five individual women's titles since '99, including back-to-back first-place finishes by Jennifer Handley in 1999 and 2000. Paul Springer (2010) and Theresa Cattuna (2009) were the last Irish harriers to outdistance the field at the Crusader Open.
This contingent heading to Valparaiso this year will not include participants from ND's appearance in the NCAAs last year (of which there are 10 returnees, four men and six women), as coaches Joe Piane and Tim Connelly will utilize the Open to gain collegiate experience for some of the squads' younger members. Making their collegiate cross country debuts on the men's side will be freshmen John Riely and Josh O'Brien and sophomores Kevin Byrne and Johnny Fuller, while freshmen Jessica Balko, Sydni Meunier and Abbey Murphy and sophomore Karen Lesiewicz will do so on the women's side. Junior Meg Ryan will also make her return to the course after missing last season with an injury. A full list of Irish runners at this year's meet is included at the end of this release.
Joining Notre Dame at the event will be men's and women's teams from Purdue, Purdue Calumet (NAIA) and host Valparaiso.
Following the Crusader Open, Notre Dame returns home for the annual National Catholic Championships, held at the Burke Golf Course on campus on Sept. 14.
Notre Dame will head into its 2012 cross country season having received preseason recognition in the USTFCCCA's preseason coaches' poll released this week. The women open the campaign slotted 22nd, while the men start at 25th. It marks the first time since 2005 that both the men's and women's teams were ranked among the top 25 in the preseason polls. If the 2012 season ends anything like the 2005 one did, the Irish faithful will be might happy; the 2005 men's team finished in third at the NCAA Championships, tied for its highest finish at nationals since the 1957 squad won the school's lone national title in the sport, while the women's team placed seventh for its fourth consecutive top-10 finish.
Oregon sits atop the preseason women's poll despite receiving fewer first-place votes than second-ranked Washington, while defending champ Wisconsin opens as the front-runner on the men's side after claiming 10 of the 12 first-place votes.
The Notre Dame men have now earned a spot in the USTFCCCA preseason rankings in 12 of the last 13 seasons, while the women have now done so in eight of the past 11.
In addition to the national rankings, the 2012 ND squads each open the year fourth in their respective Great Lakes Region polls. The men trail Big Ten teams Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, with the women sitting behind Michigan, Michigan State and Toledo.
Notre Dame women's runners in 2012 Crusader Open (10)
Notre Dame men's runners in 2012 Crusader Open (9)
Women's team finishes in Crusader Open (since 1999)
Men's team finishes in Crusader Open (since 1999)
Top women's finishers in Crusader Open (since 1999)
Top men's finishers in Crusader Open (since 1999)
2012 USTFCCCA women's preseason national rankings
2012 USTFCCCA men's preseason national rankings
2012 USTFCCCA women's preseason Great Lakes Region rankings
2012 USTFCCCA men's preseason Great Lakes Region rankings
Notre Dame women, preseason national rankings since 1995
Notre Dame men, preseason national rankings since 1998