January 21, 1999
It was the year of the individual for the Notre Dame cross country teams. Although neither team advanced to the NCAA Championship, each was represented at the NCAAs by its top individual runners in 1998 – JoAnna Deeter and Ryan Shay.
Deeter became the first two-time All-American in Notre Dame women’s cross country history with a 14th-place finish while Shay, running at his second NCAA meet, placed 229th in the elite collegiate field.
“The 14th was more important to me than getting third place when I was a freshman, just because of the way I got there,” Deeter said. “Winning those races in the beginning of the season and going into the NCAA meet was exactly how I wanted to get (to the NCAAs).”
Deeter led the way for the Irish all season, winning the first four races in as many tries. The junior from Glen Ellyn, Ill., notched victories at the season-opening Wolf & Kettle Invitational, the National Catholic Championships, the Notre Dame Invitational and the Wolverine Interregional. The win at the National Catholic meet was Deeter’s third in as many years, and she became the only two-time winner in the history of the 11-year-old Notre Dame Invitational with a first-place time of 17:25.
“I thought JoAnna’s performances were really positive,” said women’s head coach Tim Connelly. “She raced consistently well all season long and really was our impact runner.”
Besides Deeter, several runners such as junior Patti Rice and sophomore Erin Olson stepped forward for the women this season. Rice was Notre Dame’s number two runner in all but one meet and improved on her BIG EAST (27th) and District IV (27th) finishes from a year ago by 21 and 33 places, respectively. Olson, meanwhile, placed 42nd and 38th at her first BIG EAST and District IV meets after opening the year with two top-15 finishes.
Despite not making the NCAAs, Deeter and Connelly both agree that the season will be one to build on, especially with all of the team’s top runners returning in 1999.
“We never stepped back and that was very positive,” Deeter said. “We didn’t fail by not reaching the NCAAs, we just didn’t get our ultimate goal.”
The ultimate goal for the men’s cross country team was to build on its 12th-place finish at the 1997 NCAA Championships. After losing four of its top seven runners from last season including All-American Jason Rexing, the men fell just one place short of receiving one of the 13 at-large bids to the NCAAs.
“It didn’t finish the way we had hoped, but we had some good performances all year long from some of the underclassmen,” said men’s head coach Joe Piane.
One positive of the 1998 season for the men’s team was the emergence of the underclassmen. Shay, a sophomore, held the team’s top position in every meet, including a win at the National Catholic meet for a second year in a row. Right behind Shay was freshman Luke Watson whose season highlights include a sixth at the BIG EAST Championships and a 31st at the District IV meet.
“I was pleasantly surprised at the way Luke ran this season,” Piane said. “Next year looks really encouraging having both Shay and Luke back.”
Shay and Watson will both be building blocks for the men’s team, which again loses almost half of its top seven runners for 1999.
“We have several guys including Luke, Ryan, Marc Striowski, Sean McManus, Ted Higgins, John Dudley and Pat Conway returning next season, but when you graduate your three, four and five runners, track season will be especially important in developing a young team.”