Matt Sparks

Photo by Marcus Snowden

Historic Year Leads To ACC Honors

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In his first year at the helm of the program, the University of Notre Dame’s Hatherly-Piane Head Cross Country Coach Matt Sparks has been named Men’s Coach of the Year as announced by the Atlantic Coast Conference this morning.

“This award is a reflection of the young men that come to compete every day for the University of Notre Dame,” Sparks said of the honor. “They have bought into a system and believe in the vision.”

Sparks, who took over the program after serving as associate head coach for four years, led the men’s cross country team to their first ACC title in program history in 2018. Finishing tenth at the event just two years ago, the men have continued to rise to prominence in the ACC under Sparks’ tutelage. The group has benefited from the dedication and focus of assistant coach Sean Carlson, who, with Sparks, has developed a culture of excellence. It is Sparks’ first career Coach of the Year honor.

“The leadership for that vision has been provided by Coach Sean Carlson who has guided the men,” the Coach of the Year, Sparks, added. “This recognition is an honor for all of those associated with our program.”

The Irish placed four in the top-16 at the ACC Championships led by Yared Nuguse who took bronze in the race. Four men were named All-Conference for their success in the 8K.

The team that entered the season unranked in the USTFCCCA National Coaches’ Poll finished 14th at the 2018 NCAA Division One Cross Country Championships after automatically qualifying with a second-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet. It was their first trip to the championship meet as a team since 2013 where they finished 23rd overall. The men’s team also saw their first All-American honor since 2013 in freshman Danny Kilrea, who placed 33rd overall at the national meet and first among true-freshmen.

They broke into the top 30 in the national polls on October 16, making their first appearance in the USTFCCCA National Coaches’ Poll since 2012. They were announced as the 15th-ranked team heading into the postseason before jumping to 10th overall after the ACC Championships, their highest ranking in over a decade.

The Irish have built a winning culture in the short amount of time under Coach Sparks and Coach Carlson. The two have pushed the men to strive for success, success they have found in 2018 and look to continue upon in the coming years.