Oct. 25, 2000
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Irish Sizing Up BIG EAST's Best:
Coming off of a a challenging Pre-National meet in Ames, Iowa, site of the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Championships, and a week-long Fall Break, the Notre Dame cross country squads are looking towards their next challenge: the 2000 BIG EAST Championships in Boston, Mass., on Saturday, Oct. 27.
The Irish men look to retain their 1999 team championship and to walk away with another individual title as well. Last year's BIG EAST title went to then-junior Ryan Shay (Central Lake, Mich.) who won the race in 24:22. Then-sophomore Luke Watson (Stillwater, Minn.) finished third, 16 seconds behind Shay with a time of 24:36. Graduated senior Ryan Maxwell took ninth and then-sophomore Marc Striowski earned 11th-place with a time of 25:02. All four earned All-BIG EAST honors due to their performances.
Graduated senior John Dudley rounded out the Irish top five, finishing in in 25:33 to take 19th. Also returning for the Irish this year, Patrick Conway (Springfield, Va.), Sean Zanderson (Poway, Calif), and John Beck (Torrington, Wyo.) finished in 57th, 58th, and 77th, respectively.
It is Watson who is expected to lead the Irish men to a strong finish. The junior has already won three races this season (Notre Dame Invitational, National Catholic Championships, and the Valparaiso Invitational), and will look to add another title at the BIG EAST meet.
Asked to fill the shoes of All-American Ryan Shay, who is recovering from training for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, Watson is holding his own quite capably. He finished fourth at Pre-Nationals, equalling Shay's finish last year. Watson also will hope to equal Shay's 12th-place finish at the '99 NCAA meet if the Irish earn a berth in the 2000 national championship.
The Irish will not repeat as champions without dealing with some top competition. The BIG EAST boasts two of the top-10 men's teams in the nation, #4 Providence and #8 Georgetown (the Irish men are currently #17). The Irish last ran against Georgetown during the Pre-NCAAs, where the Hoyas took fifth, and the Irish slid into a 10th-place team finish. The rest of the BIG EAST will prove to be equally stiff with talented runners on every team vying for top finishes.
The Irish women have a equally difficult task. The BIG EAST boasts three nationally ranked teams: #7 Boston College, #10 Georgetown, and #24 West Virginia. Many of the squads are coming off of top finishes at Pre-Nationals as well, with four conference teaming earning top-20 team finishes. Last year at the BIG EAST competition, the Irish women placed fifth out of 13th teams, with scoring finishes coming from graduated seniors Alison Klemmer (4), Patty Rice (23), Erin Luby (26), then-junior Chrissy Kunester (33) and then-freshman Jennifer Handley (12). The Irish women have finished fifth for two years in a row, and look to change that ranking this weekend.