Sept. 3, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The 2009 Notre Dame cross country season begins Friday at the Valparaiso Crusader Open, held at Sunset Hills Park in Valparaiso, Ind.
A year ago, the Irish women claimed the Crusader Open title after taking four of the top five individual spots. Marissa Treece won the individual crown with a time of 17:42, followed by Lindsey Ferguson in second at 17:54. Beth Tacl finished fourth in 18:20, and Rachel Velarde clocked in at 18:30 to finish fifth. All four Irish runners return for the 2009 campaign.
The Notre Dame men finished second in 2008's opening meet. Senior Kevin Veselik was the first Irish runner to cross the line, finishing fifth in a time of 19:48.
This year's Crusader Open begins with the women's race at 5:00 p.m. (CT), followed by the men's race at 5:45.
The Irish are looking for a strong start to a successful season in which they return several of their top runners.
Leading the Irish men is senior Jake Walker. The Ellwood City, Pa., product earned his second all-BIG EAST honor last year after finishing 13th at the league meet. He finished 44th at the Great Lakes Regional and 76th at the NCAA Championships.
The Irish will also benefit from the veteran leadership of fifth-year senior Daniel Clark. The Jackson, Mich., native earned his first cross country monogram a year ago, while finishing 36th at the BIG EAST meet, 30th at the Great Lakes Regional and 152nd at the national contest.
A strong group of junior runners also return for the Irish. Dan Jackson provided several key performances for Notre Dame, including an 18th-place finish at the BIG EAST Championships. He finished his sophomore season with a 28th-place showing at the Great Lakes Regional and a 74th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
After winning the National Catholic individual crown to begin his season, Paul Springer finished 17th at the BIG EAST Championships. He also crossed the line in 67th at the Great Lakes Regional and 189th at the NCAA Championships.
Roscoe, Ill., native Ryan Jacobs competed in six races for the Irish a year ago. He finished 29th at the BIG EAST meet, 57th at the Great Lakes Regional and 185th at the NCAA Championships.
Joe Miller leads a strong group of sophomores into the 2009 season. Miller earned all-BIG EAST honors a year ago with a 14th-place finish at the league meet. He wrapped up his freshman season with a 20th-place showing at the Great Lakes Regional and a 134th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Piane and the Irish also have several more experienced runners returning in 2009. Juniors Spencer Carter and Ryan Gamboa each competed in three races a year ago, while sophomores Jordan Carlson and Kelly Lynch gained valuable experience during their freshman campaign. Carlson finished 45th at the BIG EAST Championship.
A talented group of freshmen will join the Notre Dame squad this season, including J.P. Malette, who recently competed for his native Canada at the world cross country championships.
On the women's side five of the top seven runners return, including all-BIG EAST honoree Lindsey Ferguson. After making their first NCAA Championship appearance since 2005, the Irish women are hoping their success from last season will carry over to the '09 campaign.
Ferguson, along with fellow seniors Beth Tacl and Molly Sullivan, will lead the Irish women this season. Ferguson won the National Catholic women's crown, before finishing 13th at the BIG EAST Championship and 10th at the Great Lakes Regional meet. She finished off her junior season with a 99th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
Tacl finished 45th at the BIG EAST Championships, 36th at the regional meet and 204th at the national competition. Sullivan competed in three meets for the Irish a year ago.
Notre Dame will also look to an experienced junior class for leadership this fall. Marissa Treece won the Valparaiso Invitational title, before finishing second, behind Ferguson, at the National Catholic meet. She closed out her season with a 20th-place BIG EAST finish, a 14th-place showing at the Great Lakes Regional and a 122nd-place performance at the NCAA Championships.
Abby Higgins took advantage of her year of experience as a freshman, finishing 39th at the BIG EAST Championship and 49th at the Great Lakes meet. She capped off her sophomore season with a 193rd-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
A large sophomore class will also help the Irish down the stretch in '09. Velarde made an immediate impact during her freshman campaign, competing in six races for the Irish. The Albuquerque, N.M., native finished 34th at the BIG EAST Championship, 34th at the Great Lakes Regional and 155th at the NCAA Championships.
Eight other sophomores ran at least one race for the Irish last season, including Alissa Ott who won the National Catholic JV title.
Notre Dame will return home Sept. 18 for the National Catholic Invitational, then host the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 2.
Complete results from the Valparaiso Crusader Open will be available on www.und.com following both races.