Sept. 2, 2016

By Megan Golden

VALPARAISO, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country team defeated Valparaiso with a dominant performance in the Crusader Open (Valparaiso, Indiana) at Sunset Hills Park on Friday.

A perfect score on both the men’s and women’s sides sent several dedicated Irish fans home happy. The meet marked the 14th consecutive time Notre Dame has opened its season in Valparaiso.

The women started the evening with a perfect score in the 5K, finishing with the top five spots. The women’s team, which ran together and led the group for most of the race, crossed the finish line as a pack.

Sophomore Annie Heffernan (18:47.7) finished in first for the Irish, just ahead of junior Sydney Foreman (18:48.7). Graduate student Danielle Aragon (18:49.9), sophomore Rachel DaDamio (18:51.5) and junior Kaitlin Frei (18:51.9) rounded out the top five.

“This first meet is just a chance for us to see some of the work people put in over the summer,” associate head coach Matt Sparks said. “I was particularly excited to see where Kaitlin Frei is. The first four we knew were competitive, we knew where they were. They’ve had success on the track in previous years. But, Kaitlin’s a walk-on that continues to take big steps every year. We’re excited to see her mix it up with some of our veteran leaders.”

The meet served as a “re-introduction” to cross country for several runners, including Aragon, who took the 2015 season off.

“It was a good start for some of the leaders, like Dani Aragon,” Sparks said. “She’s someone we expect to be in our top-five.”

The men’s squad followed the women’s performance with a perfect score of their own in the 6K. The group stayed together throughout the course, running through the orange blow-up archway and across the finish line.

Junior Billy Dolan (19:29.3) finished at the front of the pack for the men, followed by sophomore Anthony Williams (19:31.6) and senior Jacob Dumford (19:32.2). The three leaders were followed by freshman Kevin Salvano (19:32.4), junior John Flannery (19:39.5), junior Kirk Hansen (20:15.7) and senior Grant Koch (20:55.4).

Assistant coach Sean Carlson spoke very highly of Salvano following his first college race.

“It was a great race for him to get experience running in a Notre Dame jersey,” Carlson said. “I think it’s a very good first race to prepare for what’s in the future for him, which is pretty big things.

“Everybody ran the race plans, which were to stay together and keep it comfortable. This is a really good learning experience for a lot of those milers.”

Notre Dame will return to action on September 16, when it hosts the National Catholic at 3:30 p.m. at Burke Golf Course.

Megan Golden, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since August of 2016. In her role, she coordinates media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse, cross country/track and field and women’s basketball programs. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Golden is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s College. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she worked in public relations with Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.