Nov. 15, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame women's cross country team has qualified for its first NCAA championships since 1993, earning one of 13 at-large bids to the meet, which will be run on Monday, Nov. 22, at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. The women will be joined by the eighth-ranked men's team, which automatically qualified for the meet at last Saturday's NCAA District IV championships.
The Notre Dame women will be led by senior Alison Klemmer (Troy, Mich.), who finished fourth at the district meet and would have qualified individually for the NCAAs had the team not received a bid. The last time the women qualified for the NCAA meet as a team was in 1993, when they finished 15th overall and were led by Sarah Riley (33rd). Since then, Maureen Kelly (1994) and JoAnna Deeter (1996, 1998) have qualified individually for the national meet with Deeter earning All-America honors twice.
"We are really excited about getting an at-large bid, but we're kind of surprised, because we didn't run very well at the district meet," Notre Dame women's head coach Tim Connelly said. "If you would have asked me on Saturday afternoon, I would have told you that we weren't going to get one, but once I came back and looked at all the results from the other regions, it looked like it was a pretty good possibility that we would get an at-large bid."
Led by Klemmer, the 1999 Irish finished fourth at the district meet and fifth at the BIG EAST championships. Klemmer will be helped by the team's other top runners including: seniors Erin Luby (Inverness, Ill.), Nicole LaSelle (Dayton, Ohio), Patty Rice (Mishawaka, Ind.) and Valerie Siqueira (Mishawaka, Ind.), juniors Erin Olson (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and Chrissy Kuenster (Wheaton, Ill.) and freshman Jennifer Handley (Barrie, Ont.).
"It's pretty rewarding, because we've had a pretty good season," Connelly said. "We've had some ups and downs and we've had some injuries. It's been a struggle at times, but I think if we can bounce back from the regional meet the way we did after the pre-national meet and just go in and compete well, I think we will justify being in the meet."
The 1999 BIG EAST champion Notre Dame men's team, meanwhile, makes a return trip to the NCAA championships after earning an automatic bid with a second-place finish at last Saturday's district championships. The Irish had their streak of six consecutive appearances snapped in 1998, after placing eighth at the same district meet.
This season, the Irish have been led by the one-two combination of junior Ryan Shay (Central Lake, Mich.) and sophomore Luke Watson (Stillwater, Minn.). Shay was the runner-up at last Saturday's NCAA district meet and became the first Notre Dame runner to win the BIG EAST individual race. Watson, the 1999 U.S. Junior Cross Country champion, has been the team's number two runner for the second year in a row and has garnered all-BIG EAST and all-district honors. Shay and Watson will be joined by seniors John Dudley (Westwood, Mass.), Mike Griewe (Tampa, Fla.), Ryan Maxwell (Staten Island, N.Y.) and Sean McManus (Hernando, Fla.), sophomore Marc Striowski (Toronto, Ont.) and freshman Antonio Lopez (Albuquerque, N.M.).
"Saturday was a great performance by all seven of our guys," Notre Dame men's head coach Joe Piane said. "We should improve our national ranking to at least the top seven in the country, and therefore our goal next week at the nationals is to be in at least the top seven. If they run the way they've been running all year long, I don't think that's unrealistic."
The eighth-ranked Irish men will be making the team's 37th appearance overall, which includes a national championship in 1957 and three runner-up finishes in 1938, 1944 and 1945.
The men's 10K race will begin at 11 a.m. EST, while the women's 5K race will kick off at 12:15 p.m. at the Indiana University cross country course.