Nov. 21, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. --- The University of Notre Dame cross country squads are not unfamiliar with the NCAA Championships. Both the men's and women's teams head to Terre Haute, Ind., this weekend for the national event, and it will be the men's fourth consecutive appearance and the women's third.
Head coach Joe Piane explains that participation in the NCAA Championships has a long history at Notre Dame. Since 1987, the men's team has participated either as a team or by sending individuals to the meet every single year.
"Out of the last 26 years, there's been just five years where we had an individual but not the team at the NCAAs. An interesting stat--there's only one team in the country that's been to the NCAAs in cross country more than us and that's Wisconsin," Piane says of the men's team. "So we're ranked second in the number of appearances in the NCAAs in cross country since its conception. So there's a lot of history here."
The same holds true for the women's team, which has participated in the NCAA Championships 12 of the last 15 years.
"I think it's a lot like every other sport here at Notre Dame," says head women's coach Tim Connelly. "The expectations are that you're going to go to the NCAAs. Kids come in here knowing that's the expectation. We've done a pretty good job over the last 10 or 15 years. The thing I said the other day is that I don't ever want it to be old. I want this to be what we're running for, and now that we've gotten there, we feel like we've accomplished something."
Both Irish teams received at-large bids to the NCAAs after last week's performances at the Great Lakes NCAA Regional Championships. In addition to the men's third place finish and the women's fourth place finish, seniors Kelly Curran and Martin Grady and fifth-year student Jeremy Rae all had top-10 individual finishes. In all, six student-athletes earned all-region honors.
Piane and Connelly say several of their top runners have the opportunity to be named All-Americans if they go into this race ready to compete.
As for how they hope their team's fare, both coaches have specific goals. Connelly says he always tells the team that they should want to place higher than where they are ranked (23rd) and where they finished last year (15th). Piane takes a more statistical approach.
"There are well over 300 teams in the NCAA," he says. "To get to the championships, you're in the top 10 percent because they only take 31 teams. So if we can get in the top 15, we're in the top five percent of all Division I teams. That's pretty good. If we're in the top five percent of football, we're sixth in the country."
Indiana State will host the championships this Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center on the famous Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. The men's race will begin at 12 p.m. ET and the women will get underway at 1:15 p.m.
--Lauren Chval, Media Relations Assistant