Sept. 27, 2000

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The Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country teams took no notice of the early drizzling rain during the September 22nd running of the National Catholic Invitational. The sun came out as the afternoon wore on, and along with the blue sky came victory for the Irish, both individually and as a team.

National Catholic Review:

Neither of the Irish squads have failed to take the team titles at the National Catholic since 1994, and despite losses to graduation, there was no intention of letting the titles leave South Bend this year.

The Irish men captured the title in commanding fashion, earning first, second, and third place overall and five of the top 25 slots. The team’s score of 46 points was more than half that of its closest competition, Loyola University-Chicago, who finished in second with 103 points. Luke Watson (Stillwater, Minn.), Marc Striowski (Toronto, Ont.), and Patrick Conway (Springfield, Va.) showed the strength of the Irish junior class, taking first, second, and third, respectively. Watson ran a comfortable 24:56 for the men’s five-mile event, while Striowski and Conway finished in a dead heat with a shared 25:19. Freshmen David Alber (Dayton, Ohio) and Brian Kerwin (Point Pleasant, N.J.) also showed well in their first home race, finishing 19th and 21st in 26:08 and 26:15.

The Irish women were not to be outdone. Notre Dame took five of the top ten places, and seven of the top 25. Freshman Megan Johnson (Seattle, Wa.) led the way to the team title with 32 points, edging Loyola Chicago by five points, and their top finisher, Kristyne McGuinn by seven seconds. The two schools amounted for all but two of the top 10 runners, and all but seven of the top 20 finishers. No one class dominated for the Irish, as senior Chrissy Kuenster (Wheaton, Ill.) took fifth in 18:23, freshman Rachel Endress (Wheaton, Ill.) earned seventh in 18:31, junior Hilary Burn (Ottawa, Ont.), back from a year off battling mononucleois, finished ninth in 18:34, and sophomore Muffy Schmidt (Miles City, Mont.) nabbed 10th in 18:35.

It was the sixth-straight National Catholic team title for the men and the fifth straight for the women. Watson became the fifth-straight Irish harrier to capture the individual title, following three winning races from senior Ryan Shay (Central Lake, Mich.), who was unable to compete in this year’s event, and Jason Rexing in 1995. The women have dominated as well. Megan Johnson becomes the second Irish runner to win the National Catholic her freshman year after JoAnna Deeter accomplished the feat in 1996. Deeter also won the title in ’97, ’98 and ’99. The Irish women have also captured the team crown seven out of the last eight years.

Next Up for the Irish: The Notre Dame Invitational is scheduled for Oct. 6, at Notre Dame’s Burke Memorial Golf Course. The 2000 Notre Dame Invitational is one of the best regular-season meets in the nation this year with six of the top 25 teams in the country participating. Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina State, Ohio State and Stanford are just a few of the powerful teams that will race on the Notre Dame campus for the invitational title. The men’s gold division race starts at 2:45 p.m., the open race is at 3:30 p.m., the women’s varsity race is at 4:15 p.m., and the men’s varsity race begins at 5:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.