Nov. 19, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - As the weather changed from the hot and humid days of August to the cold and damp days of November in South Bend, Ind., the Notre Dame cross country program's main season goal remained the same: to advance to the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Monday marks the realization of that goal as both the men's and women's teams will compete against the nation's best in Terre Haute, Ind., at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course for the right to call themselves NCAA Champions. Thirty other teams hit the course with the Irish in each race.
The men's 10K race gets underway at 12:08 p.m., with the women's 6K race slated for 12:58 p.m. A live webcast of the championships will be broadcast from noon to 1:30 p.m. ET, on NCAA.com. In addition, highlights from the championships will be included as part of the CBS NCAA Fall Seasonal Show scheduled to air on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. ET on CBS HD.
"It is our goal every year to make it to Nationals and we have 18 of the last 22 years," said men's head coach Joe Piane. "It is an honor to be here. To put it in perspective, there are over 310 teams in the country and we are one of 31 that made it. If we run the way we ran at Regionals, we should place pretty well. We need to run as a group and if we do, who knows how high we can be."
"We are fit, healthy and are ready to run," said women's head coach Tim Connelly. "We just have to be more confident. I thought we did a good job of racing together once we got going at Regionals. If we can do that at Nationals, but be more aggressive in the first 1,000 meters and get in a good position to race, we'll run well. We are happy to run at Nationals and to have a chance to see just how good we are."
The men's team, which is making its 47th appearance in the NCAA Championships, boosted its resume last Saturday with a fourth place finish at the Great Lakes Regional. The women's team is making its 10th appearance and helped its cause with a fifth place showing at the Great Lakes Regional.
The Irish men have now been to the NCAAs as a team in 18 of the last 22 years, while the women's squad will make the trip to the NCAAs for the eighth time in the last 11 years.
Performing well individually on Saturday to help the Irish punch their ticket to nationals were five all-region performers. Senior Jordan Carlson (15th), junior Jeremy Rae (17th) and sophomore Martin Grady (20th) garnered all-region accolades for the Irish men, while junior Jessica Rydberg (10th) and freshman Gabby Gonzales (13th) were named all-region for the Notre Dame women.
Over the years the men's team has finished in the top-10 33 times, with one national championship in 1957. The Irish last finished in the top five in 2005, when they placed third. Last year the men took 25th.
The last men's All-American to wear the blue and gold was standout Patrick Smyth, who earned the citation three times from 2006-08.
Notre Dame's women's team has enjoyed its own success over the years, finishing in the top-10 from 2002-05, with a third place finish in 2002 and a fourth place showing in 2004 highlighting the run. The Irish placed 23rd in the meet during their last appearance in 2009.
That same year, Notre Dame's Lindsey Ferguson became the last Irish female to earn All-America honors.