Junior Jessica Rydberg returns to cross country after missing the 2010 season with injury.

Cross Country Opens Season At Valparaiso Crusader Invitational

Sept. 1, 2011

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame cross country teams head to Valparaiso, Ind., on Friday to open the 2011 campaign at the Valparaiso Crusader Cross Country Invitational.

The women’s 5K race begins at 6 p.m. ET, with the men’s 6K race set for 6:45 p.m. ET. Sunset Hills Park will serve as host to the two races.

The men’s team, headed up by veteran head coach Joe Piane, returns four of the five individuals that scored at the BIG EAST Championship and six of the nine runners that competed in the meet. Piane enters his 37th year at the helm of the Irish.

“We are excited to see some of our freshmen and underclassmen run that are competing in a college meet for the first time or trying to pick up valuable meet experience,” said Piane. “There are some runners that could really help us out this year, and this meet will be a good chance for them to get off to a good start against good competition.”

The women’s team, coached by 24-year veteran head coach Tim Connelly, return six of the top seven runners from a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.

“The first meet is really used for us to see what we have from a depth perspective,” said Connelly. “Some of these runners will be competing for the first time in a college cross country meet, or in the case of Jessica Rydberg, for the first time since 2009. It is a good meet to get the season started.”

The women’s squad has won the Crusader Invitational for four consecutive seasons, while the men’s team has won it two years in a row.

Last year the Irish men placed eight of the first nine runners, with all 10 Notre Dame runners finishing in the top 18. Returning runners from that meet include Tyler Bartlow, Kevin Jacobs, Thomas Pesch, Patrick Smith and Michael Tripp.

All eight of Notre Dame’s women’s runners placed in the top 17 last season, with Gena Bleyer, Molly Hirt, Kari Johnson and Susanna Sullivan returning for the Irish.

A full recap and results of the Crusader Invitational will be available on UND.com following the completion of the meet.