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Cross Country Read For Ultimate Challenge At NCAA Championship

Nov. 21, 2002

Complete Release in PDF Format, including final national polls and a Notre Dame NCAA historical breakdown.
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The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country teams will be making the trip to Terre Haute, Ind., as the NCAA Championship will be hosted by Indiana State University on Monday, Nov. 25.

Both Irish teams qualified for the championship meet, though the women and men have two different agendas for Monday’s race. The women’s team is ranked fifth in the country and is looking to contend for the team title, while the men received an at-large berth in the field and want to extend their streak of top-15 finishes at the national meet.

The women’s 6K race is set for 12 noon (EST) on Monday, while the men will begin their 10K at 1:15 p.m.

Results will be available on as soon as possible after the meet.

How the Irish qualified for the meet:

It has been an exchange of roles the Irish men’s and women’s cross country teams this season. In 2001, the Irish men were ranked in the top five of the country for a significant portion of the season, won the BIG EAST Championship and Great Lakes Regional and eventually finished sixth at the NCAA Championship. The ’01 women’s team ran well during the season and received an at-large bid to the NCAA meet, ending up 19th in the field.

The loss of three All-Americans on the men’s side and an influx of talented freshmen on the women’s team have flip-flopped the roles for both squads. The women have been ranked in the top five most of the season, peaking at #3, and won the BIG EAST title and Great Lakes Regional. The Irish men ran well early in the season and ended up with an at-large bid to Monday’s meet.

Team victories for the women’s team have come at the adidas Invite, National Catholic, BIG EAST Championship and Great Lakes Regional. The men claimed the National Catholic team title.

Notre Dame’s NCAA cross country history:

The Notre Dame men’s team has been a staple at the NCAA cross country championship meet, making 44 appearances (45 including this season) at the final race since 1938. The Irish have one title to their credit in 1957, led by Ed Monnelly in 19th place. Notre Dame finished second in 1938 – led by individual winner Greg Rice. In 1942, Oliver Hunter won the individual title and the team finished sixth.

Since 1990, the men have appeared as a team at 10 of the last 12 championship meet and finished in the top 15 each time. Notre Dame finished third to begin the string in 1990, took fifth in 1993 and sixth a year ago. Since 1990, Luke Watson (’02) holds the top individual finish for Notre Dame, taking fifth place at last season’s championship meet.

For the women’s team, this is the fourth time the Irish will be sending a group of runners to the NCAA Championship. The highest the women have ever finished was 15th in 1993 – their first appearance as a team at the NCAA meet. The best individual finish was posted by JoAnna Deeter in 1996 when she finished third.

Great Lakes Regional recap:

The women continued to accomplish firsts for the program, as they won the Great Lakes Regional title for the first time Notre Dame history. The women’s team began regional (or district) competition in 1986 and its highest finish before this season was second in 1993 (the same season they qualified for their first NCAA Championship berth).

Freshman Molly Huddle was the top finisher for the Irish, taking second place 20:57.2. She was followed by teammate and running mate Lauren King in third place (21:01.9). Huddle and Lauren King have formed into a dominating running duo, finishing together at the Pre-National Meet and the BIG EAST Championship. Not far behind the lead Irish duo was senior Jennifer Handley in sixth place (21:28.6). Handley has appeared in three national meets and is looking toward an All-American finish on Monday. The senior from Barrie, Ontario, has been steady as the #3 runner for the Irish this season.

Two more rookies stepped up to finish well in fourth and fifth place. Lori King has been turning heads all season, as she took seventh at the Pre-National and 23rd at the BIG EAST meet. She ran side-by-side with classmate Stephanie Madia at the regional meet, with Madia ending up in 27th place.

Notre Dame’s sixth runner has been the surprise of the season, senior Ana Morales. Morales never stepped foot on a cross country course her previous three years at Notre Dame, but her 41st-place effort at the Great Lakes regional is a testament to her hard work this season.

Jennifer Fibuch ended up as the final Irish harrier in 69th.

The men’s team might have been a bit disappointed after their eighth-place finish at the Great Lakes regional, but a look at the competitive field tells the story of why Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA Championship. Wisconsin, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Indiana, Butler, Michigan and Michigan State all entered the meet ranked ahead of the Irish. Notre Dame also had to adjust to Todd Mobley returning to the team after missing the BIG EAST Championship with a leg injury.

Mobley would end up running cautiously to avoid another injury and freshman Tim Moore stepped up to lead the team with a 14th-place effort (30:57.1). Mobley ran very well in his return, taking 26th place in 31:22.0.

Notre Dame’s third runner was junior David Alber in 42nd, followed by Ryan Johnson (54th), Brian Kerwin (72nd), Eric Morrison (77th) and John Keane (109th).

Women’s team season recap:

Sophomore Lauren King was the lone All-American returning for the Irish in 2002, as the Toronto, Ontario, native ended up 27th in the 2001 NCAA Championship in Furman, S.C., last season. She continued to perform well during the track and field season, eventually earning All-America honors in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA outdoor meet.

Lauren King was the main force returning for Notre Dame in ’02, and she led the team to a team early in the season. Against two talented teams at the adidas Invitational (NC State, Arizona State) Lauren King helped the Irish to first place, taking second overall. She did not get back on the course again until the Notre Dame Invitational, and by then she was joined by freshman Molly Huddle.

Huddle entered the 2002 season with high expectations. One of the top prep distance runners in the nation, she ran as a one-runner team in 2001 – as her high school did not have a cross country team established. She was undefeated during the ’01 season, winning the conference, regional and state titles while setting 12 different course records. She walked away from the FootLocker National Championship with a fourth-place finish.

Huddle did not disappoint in her Notre Dame debut, running well in an elite field at the Notre Dame Invitational. She would finish fourth overall, just ahead of Lauren King in sixth, and the Irish lead duo of Huddle and King was officially formed.

Although Lauren King and Huddle have garnered a large share of the attention this season, senior Jennifer Handley might be the most important runner for the Irish team. A veteran of national competition (two NCAA cross country meets, the 5,000-meter competition at the 2002 NCAA outdoor meet), Handley has been working toward a stellar senior season since she joined the program in 1998. Even as Lauren King and Huddle are the lead runners for Notre Dame, Handley is usually not too far behind. She finished sixth at the adidas Invitational, ninth at the Notre Dame Invite, 37th in the Pre-National, 12th at the BIG EAST (her third-straight all-BIG EAST finish) and sixth at the Great Lakes regional. The Barrie, Ontario, native is ready to run the best race of her career at the NCAA Championship.

Behind Notre Dame’s top three, the names have changed but the results have stayed the same. Early in the season, Notre Dame junior Megan Johnson was penciled in as their fourth runner. She finished eighth at the adidas Invitational, sixth at the National Catholic and 48th at the Notre Dame Invitational, but she was hit by an injury during the Pre National race. The injury kept her out of the BIG EAST Championship, Great Lakes Regional and will most likely sideline her for the NCAA Championship.

In her place, two Irish rookies have stepped up and run beyond the limits of their experience. Lori King started with a ninth place finish at the National Catholic, followed by 37th at the Notre Dame Invite, seventh in the Pre National JV race, 23rd at the BIG EAST and 25th at the regional meet. The Arlington Heights, Ill., native looks to be peaking just at the right time.

Running beside Lori King a large portion of the time has been classmate Stephanie Madia. After finishing 23rd at the FootLocker National Championship to cap her prep career, Madia debuted with a fifth-place effort at the National Catholic. She finished 34th in the Notre Dame Invite, 71st in the Pre-National and 31st at the BIG EAST. Madia continued her improvement at the Great Lakes Regional, finishing alongside Lori King in 27th.

Behind the top five, head coach Tim Connelly fields senior Ana Morales. Morales has stepped up in the absence of Megan Johnson, giving Connelly a reliable runner in the field. Morales is a pleasant surprise, as she did not compete in a cross country meet during her career until the Notre Dame Invitational this season. She finished eighth in the Gold Division race at the ND Invite, then took 24th in the Pre-National JV race. With Johnson sidelined by her injury, Morales stepped up to finish 35th at the BIG EAST meet and an impressive 41st at the Great Lakes regional.

Notre Dame’s seventh runner at the regional meet was senior Jennifer Fibuch. Fibuch finished ninth in the adidas Invitational and 39th at the ND Invite, but took a step backward with a 124th-place effort at the Pre-National meet. She came back to take 38th at the BIG EAST.

Fellow senior Katie Wales will also make the trip with the team for the NCAA Championship. Wales ran very well early in the season, taking seventh at the adidas Invite and fourth in the National Catholic. She was also 24th in the ND Invite, 93rd at the Pre National and 49th at the BIG EAST.

Men’s team season recap:

While the women’s team entered the season with 10 different runners contending for the seven top spots on the team, head men’s coach Joe Piane was not quite sure what he had entering the season. All-American Todd Mobley was returning, but the loss of three All-Americans to graduation (Ryan Shay, Luke Watson, Pat Conway) left the team wondering who would step up.

Mobley and freshman Tim Moore answered the call early in the season. Mobley was running as well as he ever has, winning the individual titles at the adidas Invitational and National Catholic meets. Moore was equally impressive, finishing second behind his teammate in each of those races.

Unfortunately, Mobley was injured during the Pre-National race – and the Irish team suffered a blow with its top runner out. Moore stepped up to lead the team at the BIG EAST meet (where the Irish finished fourth) with a 10th-place effort. Mobley returned to the lineup for the Great Lakes Regional and ended up 26th. Mobley got through his first race back without a significant setback and looks forward to running back at his accustomed level for the national meet.

For his part, Moore is looking to become the first freshman All-American cross country runner at Notre Dame since Mike McWilliams in 1990. Moore finished 14th at the Great Lakes regional meet.

The third runner for Notre Dame on Monday might be junior David Alber. Alber has been consistent over the last three meets, finishing 34th at the Pre-National, 32nd at the BIG EAST and 42nd in the regional. Sophomore Ryan Johnson also has made a strong case to step up as the third Irish runner. Johnson finished second in the National Catholic JV race, sixth in the Notre Dame Invitational gold division and 20th in the Pre-National JV race. He ran well at the BIG EAST meet, finishing 33rd and ended up 54th at the Great Lakes Regional.

Another key runner for Notre Dame on Monday will be junior Brian Kerwin. Kerwin has shown that he can run with some of the countries top harriers, finishing 19th in the Pre-National JV race and 41st at the BIG EAST Championship. He was 72nd at the Great Lakes Regional.

Rounding out Notre Dame’s top eight men could be any combination of senior John Keane, sophomore Eric Morrison and sophomore Sean O’Donnell. Keane finished fifth at the National Catholic and 29th at the BIG EAST Championship. Morrison was running very well, finishing 28th at the BIG EAST, before dropping back to 77th at the regional. O’Donnell competed at the Pre-National meet, finishing 103rd.

Course information:

The competition site is set for the Laverne Gibson Cross Country Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.

The women’s race begins at 12 noon (EST), while the men will start racing at 1:15 p.m.

Meet results:

The Notre Dame sports information office will be on site at the NCAA meet – and will post results as soon as possible after they are made official. You can also check out the official meet website at