Oct. 25, 2012
BRONX, N.Y. - After stringing together a multitude of top-five team finishes this fall, the University of Notre Dame men's and women's cross country teams look to extend their success as they take part in the BIG EAST Conference Championships Friday at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y. The women's six-kilometer race begins at 11 a.m. (ET) followed by the men's eight-kilometer at 11:50 a.m. (ET).
CHAMPIONSHIP COVERAGE: Follow the BIG EAST's championship central page at BIGEAST.org for immediate results and post-race interviews. For the quick insight, follow both squads on Twitter @NDXCTF. Visit UND.com for a full recap on all of the action.
CURRENT RANKINGS: The Notre Dame women's team enters Friday's contest as the No. 19 team in the country. No. 9 Georgetown leads the BIG EAST followed by No. 10 Providence and No. 29 Connecticut.
No. 16 Syracuse, No. 25 Villanova and No. 27 Georgetown all place in the national rankings on the men's side. The Irish ranked in the polls throughout much of the season and reached a high of No. 13 on Oct. 2.
The men's team currently ranks fifth in the NCAA's Great Lakes Region while the women are third.
NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: The BIG EAST women's championship race has recently played as a forecaster in what lies ahead for the NCAA National Championship race, as the winner has come out of the BIG EAST the last three years. Villanova won the national championship in 2009 and 2010 and Georgetown captured their first title in program history last year.
"We have had some great individual performances all year, but we haven't had a race where all five runners had great individual performances at once," said women's head coach Tim Connelly. "If five runners have their best race of the year on Friday we should have a great chance to make it in the top three and give ourselves a shot."
Villanova, Georgetown, Providence and Notre Dame's men's squad have each battled the last two years in the national championship. In '10, Providence (22nd), Villanova (23rd), Notre Dame (25th) and Georgetown all placed in the top 30. Last year, Villanova (13th), Georgetown (17th), Providence (22nd) and Notre Dame (24th) all advanced to finish within the 25 teams.
"The men's meet will be as competitive this year as it has ever been," said men's head coach Joe Piane. "We will have to run much more aggressive than we have all season to have a shot to finish in the top three, but if we do run aggressively I think we can make some noise on Friday."
SCOUTING REPORT: On Oct. 12, the Notre Dame cross country teams participated in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, which played host to 37 nationally-ranked teams. The men's team took down BIG EAST foe Providence, who finished 38th with 919 points compared to Notre Dame's 26th place finish with 615 points.
The women's team placed 12th with 418 points. The Irish easily outlasted Connecticut (19th, 510 points) and Syracuse (22nd, 595 points).
2011 BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIPS: Villanova took home the hardware for the BIG EAST championship in both races last year. The men's team trimmed their total to 43 points and surpassed second-place Georgetown by 51 points. Their victory marked the first time since 2002 that the men have won the championship. Six of Villanova's seven runners finished in the top 15, however, the Wildcats will see an inclined challenge this year as they surrender their top-three finishers from last year's squad to graduation.
The Villanova women's team picked up their fourth straight championship title last year. The Wildcats scored 54 points and held off second-place Providence who chased close with 63 points. The Wildcats graduated three of their top seven finishers from last year's women's squad, two of which finished first and second overall, respectively.
The Irish finished sixth last year in both races. The men's side tallied 119 points to hold off seventh-place Marquette (201). They trailed fifth-place Providence by three points. The women's team jumped in front of Connecticut (165) with 136 points, but fell behind West Virginia and Syracuse, who tied for fourth with 92 points.
IRISH IN THE BIG EAST: Since joining the BIG EAST in 1995, the men have claimed five titles, with the women winning three. The last time Notre Dame won the championship was in 2005 when both squads swept the field. The men's 31 points and the women's 34 points for the '05 race marked the best finish in program history at the championship for both teams. Ryan Shay (1999) and Lauren King (2002) have been the only Irish to win the event. The men's team returns five of their seven runners and the women's team returns six of their top seven.
STANDOUTS: Senior Jeremy Rae (Fort Erie, Ont.) and senior Rebecca Tracy both have made the most improvement this fall for their squads. Rae finished 12th last year, (23:55) and has run under that time in all three races this season. Rae has been named the BIG EAST Cross Country Athlete of the Week on two occasions this fall. Rae set a season best in the eight-kilometers at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational where he finished 14th out of 316 runners.
Senior Rebecca Tracy (Barrington, III.) finished 43rd with a 21:34 in last year's championship race. Tracy joined Rae as the BIG EAST Cross Country Athlete of the Week during the week of Sept. 10-16 as she finished first out of 266 runners with a time of 17:11 in the National Catholic Championships five-kilometer race.
ROAD WARRIORS: Following Friday's race, the Irish will return to Madison, Wis., for the second time this year to participate in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship on Nov. 9th.