Sept. 19, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - In a tradition that dates back to 1980, the 34th running of the National Catholic Championships is set for Friday, Sept. 19 at the nine-hole Notre Dame Golf Course.
The festivities get underway at 3:30 p.m. (ET) with the open race that features men's and women's runners racing together but running their separate distances - a 5K for women and five miles for men. Following the conclusion of the opening race, the women's championship race (5K) is slated for 4:15 p.m. with the men's five-mile championship race closing out the day at 5 p.m.
"We try to use it as the first meet where we race all our top runners together," said women's head coach Tim Connelly. "It gives us a chance to see what we look like when we line up and compete. I've watched us run for a month and they have trained really well. The team is excited about the chance to race."
"The meet is a great opportunity for the guys to prepare for the balance of the season," said men's head coach Joe Piane. "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."
Piane is the brainchild behind the meet that welcomes Catholic institutions, both Division I and non-Division I alike, from around the country for one big competition day every September. The meet started as a men's race and branched out to include both genders in 1984.
"It's pretty gratifying to see how the race has taken off," said Piane. "The important thing for us is to put on a great meet for every competitor here. We want them to enjoy their experience at Notre Dame. I think the race is great PR for the school in addition to bringing in money for the local community."
This year, 37 institutions will converge on Notre Dame's campus, with 27 schools hailing from the Division II, Division III or NAIA ranks. A remarkable 879 runners are ready to run as 478 will compete in the women's race and another 401 will run in the men's competition.
Over the years the Irish have been very successful at their home meet, as the women have won 19 crowns, including at least a share of 11 consecutive titles. The men have won all but twice since 1995 and 23 times overall.
Eighteen Irish ladies have won the individual title since 1992 highlighted by a four-peat from JoAnna Deeter (1996-99). Last year senior Rebecca Tracy earned victory in 17:11.8. On the men's side, 15 student-athletes have claimed first place including former great Ryan Shay, who won from 1997-99 and then again in 2001 to complete a four-peat of his own. Last year senior Jeremy Rae took home the title and will have a chance to repeat as a graduate student in 2013.
The Irish enter the meet ranked 18th in the country on both sides. Notre Dame last raced two weeks ago at the Crusader Open. The women's team won the meet and sophomore Sydni Meunier claimed the individual title, earning Atlantic Coast Conference Women's Runner of the Week honors in the process. The men missed out on first by just one point but did have senior Patrick Lesiewicz win the individual crown.
Following the National Catholic Championships, the Irish will have round two on the Notre Dame Golf Course as they welcome in some of the nation's elite for the 58th Notre Dame Invitational Friday, Oct. 4.
Check out UND.com for a full recap of all of Friday's action. Fans can follow Notre Dame cross country and track and field on Twitter (@NDXCTF) or Facebook (/NDXCTF).
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director