July 26, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: During the month of July, UND.com and Fighting Irish Digital Media are featuring a multimedia series entitled “Irish in the ACC,” giving Notre Dame fans a sneak peek at some of what they can expect in the coming days, weeks and years as a member of the ACC through the eyes of each of the various Fighting Irish sports that will compete in the conference. Today, we take a look at the Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country and track & field programs, which not only dominated the BIG EAST for many years, but have enjoyed a resurgence on the national stage, with both accomplishments set to blossom further as the Fighting Irish enter the ACC.

by Russell Dorn (Athletic Media Relations Assistant)

As has been the case with each of our “Irish in the ACC” series features thus far, the ACC offers a top-notch cross country and track & field conference that will challenge the Irish during each and every season. Fortunately for Notre Dame cross country and track & field, the Irish appear to be in prime position to challenge in all six sports after finding great success in the BIG EAST.

During their 18 years in the league, the Irish won five men’s cross country, three women’s cross country, five men’s indoor track & field, eight men’s outdoor track & field, three women’s indoor track & field and two women’s outdoor track & field titles. This number totals to 26 titles in 108 opportunities or if you like percentages, Notre Dame won at better than a 24-percent clip, which is impressive considering how many opponents each squad faced at their respective meets. In their final year in the league, the Irish won both women’s track & field meets, took second at both the men’s championships and turned in their best showing at the cross country championships in a number of years as the men placed third and the women fifth.

At the NCAA level, Notre Dame routinely has be represented at the indoor and outdoor track & field championships. In fact, since 2010, the Irish have fielded 58 All-Americans or honorable mention All-Americans between their men’s and women’s squads.

Now with the move to the ACC, Notre Dame will have a chance to carry over its rivalry with Pittsburgh from the BIG EAST, while also renewing battles with former BIG EAST members Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech, not to mention creating new rivalries with Florida State and Clemson among others.

“It’s a great conference in all six sports,” Notre Dame head coach Joe Piane said. “Teams like Florida State and Clemson are perennial national powers and we get to compete against them at several meets throughout the year, from the Notre Dame Invitational in cross country, to the Meyo and Alex Wilson invitationals in track and field. There are some great coaches and student-athletes in a league that is just filled with elite schools. We look like a lot of the schools and that makes me very excited to get started. It will provide a great challenge for all our teams.”

Notre Dame should instantly compete across the spectrum of all six sports as it returns seven all-region runners in cross country (four women, three men) and more than a dozen All-Americans in track & field. The Irish will get their first chance to impress the ACC on Nov. 1, when both cross country squads compete for ACC Championships at Beeson Park in Kernersville, N.C.


The ACC first began competing in women’s cross country in 1978, with North Carolina State dominating for much of the early years behind legendary head coach Rollie Geiger. The Wolfpack claimed 19 of the first 24 titles, including runs of three straight, three straight, seven straight and four straight. Lately, Florida State has become a conference and national powerhouse, claiming five titles in a row after vacating the 2007 crown because of NCAA violations.

Nationally, the ACC has witnessed great success as Virginia won a pair of titles in 1981 and 1982, while 42 squads have finished in the top 10 since 1981. In 2012, Florida State placed fourth and Duke took seventh. Six runners have won an individual crown, with the last being two-time winner Shalane Flanagan of North Carolina (2002-03).


On the men’s side, the first conference meet was held in 1954 after N.C. State claimed the first title in 1953 based on dual meet standings. Through the years, the meet has been highly competitive as N.C. State has 16 titles, Maryland 11, North Carolina nine, Clemson and Duke seven and Virginia and Wake Forest four. With Geiger leading the Wolfpack thinclads, N.C. State has totaled 35 team championships between men’s and women’s cross country since 1979.

The ACC men’s cross country corps hasn’t been quite as strong as the women’s in the national meet, but still impressive nonetheless. Since 1952, 23 teams have finished in the top 10, including top-five showings by Florida State in 2010 (second) and 2012 (fifth). Before the ACC was founded, North Carolina’s Jack Milne won the NCAA individual cross country title in 1947.


Turning to women’s indoor track & field, North Carolina dominated the league for most of the ACC’s early years, winning 15 titles from 1988-2004. Since then, the conference championship has been divided up nicely, with Clemson currently the ACC’s top dog, winning the last four crowns.

All told, 29 conference teams have finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships since 1983, highlighted by Florida State’s back-to-back national titles in 1985 and 1986.


On the outdoor circuit, the Virginia women claimed the first five ACC titles from 1983-87 before North Carolina went on a tear, winning 14 in a row from 1988-2004. Since the Tar Heels’ reign ended nearly a decade ago, Clemson has taken over, winning the last four championships.

Much like the indoor season, 21 ACC teams have placed in the top 10 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, highlighted by Florida State’s title in 1984 and Clemson’s tie for fourth at last year’s meet.

In addition, 14 current or former ACC track & field student-athletes qualified to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, including four from Florida State, three from Miami and two each from North Carolina, Duke and Clemson.

The Irish add to the ACC Olympian count as former Notre Dame All-American Molly Huddle competed in the 5,000 meters in London. Former pole-vaulting great Mary Saxer was an Olympic alternate in the event after finishing tied for third at the U.S. Olympic Trials (and missing her spot on the squad based only on fewer misses by her opponent).


In men’s indoor track and field, Maryland blew away the ACC field in the early years, winning 26 of the conference’s first 27 titles, including 25 in a row from 1956-80. At that point, the ACC temporarily stopped hosting indoor championships from 1981-86. When the meet resumed in 1987, new teams rose to the top as Clemson won 12 of the next 16 crowns before yielding to Florida State, who claimed nine of the past 11 titles. Meanwhile, former conference power Maryland hasn’t won a title in more than three decades, last hoisting the hardware in 1980.

Nationally, 30 teams have earned top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, highlighted by Clemson’s back-to-back runner-up showings in 1992 and 1993, and Florida State’s second-place finish in 2008.


During the outdoor season, Maryland again found great success in the early years, winning 26 of the first 28 titles, including 24 in a row from 1956-79. Since the Terrapins dominance ended in 1981, four schools have found success as Clemson has 11 titles, Florida State nine, N.C. State eight and North Carolina five.

At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, 32 teams have placed in the top 10, led by Florida State’s five top-five finishes and national titles in 2006 and 2008.

Like their female counterparts, 14 current or former ACC men’s track & field student-athletes qualified to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, including seven from Florida State and two from Clemson.

Notre Dame had representation of its own, as former hurdling great Selim Nurudeen competed in his second Olympic Games, reaching the semifinals of the 110-meter hurdles while sporting the colors of his home country of Nigeria.

— ND —

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our Irish in the ACC series begins its final week of previews on Monday with a look at the Notre Dame rowing program.