Sept. 8, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country teams will open their 2005 seasons Friday afternoon when they make the short trip west to Valparaiso, Ind., for the Crusader Invitational. The 6K women’s race will begin at 5:00 p.m. (EST/CDT), followed by the 8K men’s event at 5:45 p.m. (EST/CDT), both from Sunset Hills Park in Valparaiso. Joining the Irish and Crusaders in this year’s field will be Chicago State, IUPUI, Oakland, St. Joseph’s (Ind.), Western Illinois, Western Michigan (women only) and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
The Notre Dame men return six of their top seven monogram winners from last year’s club that was ranked fifth in the nation, won the BIG EAST Conference title and placed second at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. However, an 11th-place showing at the year-end NCAA Championships left veteran head coach Joe Piane and his charges with an incomplete feeling.
In an effort to build depth early this season, Piane will send a young squad to Valparaiso. In fact, sophomore Brett Adams (Davenport, Iowa/Assumption) is the only Notre Dame runner competing this weekend who also saw action a year ago. Adams participated in two races, taking second (26:11) in the JV race at the National Catholic Championship and 20th (25:17) in the Gold Division event at the Notre Dame Invitational.
Aside from Adams, the remainder of the nine-man Irish lineup will consist of harriers making their collegiate debuts. Senior Tom Longo (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook) is the only upperclassman, joining sophomores Daniel Bradley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s), Zach Einterz (Zionsville, Ill./Community), James Millar (Granger, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) and Mike Popejoy (Wheaton, Ill./Warrenville South). In addition, three freshmen will make the trip for Notre Dame — Kevin McFadden (New Tripoli, Pa./Allentown Central Catholic), Mark Moore (Novi, Mich./Novi) and Chris Rodriguez (Kelso, Wash./Kelso).
Last season, Notre Dame opened its season with a strong first-place finish at the Crusader Invitational claiming the top six and seven of the top eight positions to earn a perfect score of 15 points.
“This race allows our younger guys the opportunity to get experience racing at the college level,” Piane said. “It also gives us the chance to see how those runners who have had injuries are recovering. We’re looking forward to seeing how things play out on Friday.”
Meanwhile, the Irish women’s squad brings back three All-Americans from a team that finished fourth at the NCAA Championships, marking the second time in three seasons Notre Dame had reached the awards podium (top four finishers at nationals). The Irish also earned runner-up honors at the Great Lakes Regional and were ranked sixth in the nation at season’s end.
Late Thursday evening, Notre Dame learned it has been ranked third in the nation, according to the preseason poll released by FinishLynx and the Women’s Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association (WICCCA). Defending national champion Colorado is first, followed by Duke, although the BIG EAST is the only conference with three schools in the top 10 (Providence is seventh and Villanova is 10th). Fellow BIG EAST members Georgetown (21st) and Marquette (28th) also are appearing in the FinishLynx/WICCCA preseason rankings.
Like Piane, longtime Irish women’s cross country head coach Tim Connelly is using the Crusader Invitational as a chance to see some of the younger talent on his roster, as well as evaluate the progress of some veterans returning from injury. One of those experienced Irish runners on the comeback trail who will compete at Valparaiso is senior Loryn King (Arlington Heights, Ill./St. Viator), who narrowly missed all-BIG EAST honors as a freshman in 2002 before missing parts of the past two years with injuries. King did compete in three cross country races last season, with her best finish being a 28th-place performance (19:20) at the National Catholic Championship.
Three other Notre Dame women’s harriers who will see action this weekend also participated in events last year. Junior Ann Mazur (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-LaSalle) raced in the JV event at the National Catholic Championship, finishing in 11th place (20:59). Sophomore Julie Opet (Wayne, Pa./Radnor) competed in three meets, peaking with a second-place showing (19:46) in the JV race at the National Catholic Championship. Classmate Allyson Parker (Macungie, Pa./Emmaus) took part in two races, with her best finish being a third-place tally (19:51) behind Opet in the JV event at the National Catholic Championship.
The rest of the Irish women’s lineup is comprised of five runners making their collegiate debuts. Sophomores Meagan McGinley (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West) and Elizabeth Philipp (Kingwood, Texas/Kingwood) will be joined by freshmen Becca Bauman (Grand Rapids, Mich./Central Catholic), Elena Brandewie (Valparaiso, Ind./Andrean) and Heidi Rocha (Palmdale, Calif./Lancaster Paraclete). Brandewie’s homecoming is particularly noteworthy, as she recently concluded a solid prep career that saw her help Andrean win three consecutive sectional titles (2002-04) and advance to the IHSAA Semi-State race all four of her high school seasons.
The Notre Dame women placed third at last year’s Crusader Invitational with 53 points, led by two runners finishing among the top eight in the field.
“This is an excellent chance to give some of our athletes a chance to compete,” Connelly said. “Our kids have trained hard and now it’s time for them to show us what they can do. Also, we’re looking to see if someone will step up and show herself as someone who can be a real contributor for us later in the season.”
Complete results from the Crusader Invitational will be available on-line at the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com) as well as the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000).
— ND —