July 6, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country and track & field programs will welcome talented freshman classes as they prepare to build upon the progress made since the transition to the Atlantic Coast Conference two seasons ago. A group of nine women and six men will join the Fighting Irish beginning with the 2015-16 seasons.
A large and talented group of distance runners will join the the women’s squad this fall, a class that has been billed the nation’s best by both FloTrack and milesplit.com. Local product and national standout Anna Rohrer (Mishawaka, Indiana) joins Annie Heffernan (Cincinnati, Ohio) as five star recruits (FloTrack), while Rachel DaDamio (Bloomfield, Michigan) comes in as a four-star selection. Toni Finnane (Morago, California), Emily Franz (Johnstown, Ohio), Ella Fennelly (Dublin, Ireland) and Kelly Hart (Arlington, Virginia) round out the mid- and long-distance groups, while Kyla Lewis (sprints; Rockville, Maryland) and Alex Coubal (throws; Thousand Oaks, California) complete the track & field class. The Irish will also add transfer Lexi Pelletier (University of Rhode Island), who enrolled in January, to the distance contingent.
The Irish men’s class features a trio of cross country standouts, while adding a pair of throwers and a high jumper. Aaron Roe (Seattle, Washington) comes in as the most polished on the course with a cross country state championship to his name, while Joseph Suarez (Plainfield, Illinois) and Anthony Williams (Bloomington, Indiana) are multi-time state qualifiers in both cross country and track & field. Daniel Hardiman (throws; Farmington, Connecticut), Robert Moots (throws; Marietta, Georgia) and Matt Birzer (jumps; Overland Park, Kansas) round out the track & field haul.
Women’s Recruiting Class
Rohrer joins the Irish with one of the most impressive resumes of any recent addition to the Irish roster. Named the 2014-15 Gatorade National Cross Country Runner of the Year – and presented the award by former Irish standout and reigning American 10,000 meters champion Molly Huddle (’07) – Rohrer captured the 2015 Brooks PR Invitational two-mile championship and is a two-time Foot Locker National Cross Country Champion (2013, 2015). The Mishawaka High School product is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the two-mile run, the U.S. Junior national record-holder in the indoor 5,000 meters (16:10), the Indiana state record-holder in the 3,200 (10:14.43) meters and a six-time Indiana state champion (cross country 2x, 3,200m 3x, 1,600m).
“Anna Rohrer is a winner,” associate head coach Matt Sparks said. “She comes up big in the biggest moments. We have no doubt she will carry the same vision with her to Notre Dame.”
Heffernan enters her freshman season at Notre Dame rated among the top high school distance runners in the country. In cross country, she was named the 2013 Ohio Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year, and her accomplishments on the track are even more extensive. Heffernan claimed the 2014 and 2015 Ohio D1 state titles in the 1,600 meters, while she snared the 2013 crown in the 3,200 meters, in which she also owns the state record (10:14.91). She was also runner up in the 3,200 meters at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships in 2013, while she placed third at the same meet in 2014. A graduate of St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, she was the 13th-ranked senior in the country in the 1,600 meters in 2015.
“We hope for [Heffernan’s] elite level mentality to permeate our program,” Sparks said. “Annie is someone we expect to step in and make an immediate impact in cross country and on the track.”
Ranked among the nation’s top 10 in both the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters, DaDamio brings with her a 2015 Michigan state championship in the 1,600 meters, a third-place performance in the two-mile run at the 2015 New Balance Outdoor Championships and a fourth-place showing in the mile at this year’s NB Indoor Championships. She was a cross country state runner-up in 2014, and was a member of the state cross country championship team in 2012 and 2014 with Birmingham Seaholm High School. As a junior, she was also a member of the state champion 4×800-meter relay squad.
“Rachel has great range as a distance runner with the ability to contribute in the middle distance events up through cross country,” Sparks said. “She has been a part of state champion cross country teams and relays in high school. She has an awareness of what it takes to win. “
Finnane placed 22nd at the 2014 Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships while turning in a California state cross country runner-up performance that same year with Campolindo High School. The Morago, California, product has experienced big success with just one year of cross country and track & field experience in high school, including a No. 18 national ranking in the 3,200 meters (PR: 10:26.61).
“We feel [Finnane] can continue to improve with a longer training base behind her,” Sparks said. “We expect immediate contributions from Toni in cross country and the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters on the track.”
A mid-distance specialist, Franz placed fifth in the 800 meters at this year’s Ohio DI State Track Meet after taking fourth in the event the season before. With a personal best of 2:10.90, she ranks 29th among American seniors in the 800. Additionally, she placed 15th at the 2014 state cross country championships.
“Emily will be a great addition to our up and coming 800m group. Her background in cross country should allow her to have a smooth transition to college training.”
Fennelly joins the Fighting Irish having already represented the Irish national team at the European Club Championships, where she was a bronze medalist in the 1,500 meters in 2014. A graduate of the Sacred Heart Convent School in Dublin, Fennelly was also the 2014 Irish Schools cross country champion.
“Ella has competed internationally representing Ireland. Those experiences should give her the confidence to know she can compete well within our NCAA system.”
Hart joins the Irish after placing third at in the 800 meters in the emerging elite section of the 2015 New Balance Outdoor Nationals, and she was also the first-place finisher in the mile at the 2014 Virginia Meet of Champions.
“Kelly has a passion for running that will allow her to continue to improve. She will really benefit from having a strong talented group to train with every day.”
Lewis will diversify the incoming Irish class with emphasis on short sprints. The Rockville, Maryland, transplant was the 2014 ISL/MAC 100m Champion and owns multiple all-state outdoor track awards. She will make her biggest contributions in the 60 meters, 100 meters and 4×100-meter relay.
Coubal will step into the Irish throws group after the graduation of All-American Emily Morris, where she will bring with her a No. 25 national discus ranking and 2014 and 2015 appearances at the California state championships in the discus.
“Alexa is a great athlete who is extremely competitive,” head coach Alan Turner said. “She will be a great addition that can contribute to the team immediately.”
Pelletier enrolled in January as a transfer from the University of Rhode Island, where she was the runner-up at the Atlantic 10 Cross Country Championships in 2014. Also named all-region in cross country, she excelled on the track as well, setting the URI record in the indoor 3,000 meters and finishing fourth in both the indoor and outdoor 5,000 meters at the Atlantic 10 Track & Field Championships.
“Lexi brings a level of maturity with her previous collegiate background that will help fill the gap we will experience after the graduation of a great group of senior girls this spring.”
Men’s Recruiting Class
A 2014 Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year nominee, Roe will bring with him a 4A Washington State Cross Country Championship, which he earned as a senior. Roe placed 11th at the 2014 Nike Cross Country Nationals Northwest meet, while he was also a four-time Oregon/Washington Border Class qualifier.
“Aaron is coming off a great fall cross country season and will infuse confidence and leadership into our men’s distance group,” Sparks said.
A Plainfield, Illinois, product, Suarez was a four-time cross country and track & field state qualifier and was a member of the 2012 Illinois All-State Cross Country squad.
“Joseph has had some impressive efforts during is sophomore and junior years, but his last year of racing has been injury-riddled,” Sparks said. “With some healthy mileage under his belt, Joseph will contribute to our success in cross country and track.”
A five-time cross country and track state qualifier, Williams boasts a personal best of 9:17.67 in the 3,200 meters.
“Anthony comes from a successful high school program where his father is the coach. He has a solid understanding of what it takes to be successful and is willing to make that commitment.”
Hardiman is a two-time Connecticut Class L discus champion (2014, 2015), while he also claimed the 2015 state crown in the shot put.
“Dan will help fill a missing piece in our squad as a shot putter and will help continue the success in discus with the graduation of Dominick Padovano,” Turner said.
Moots is the 22nd-ranked senior in the country in the hammer throw and claimed the title in the emerging elite section at the 2014 New Balance Outdoor National meet, despite just two seasons of high school competition.
“Robby has limited experience but has enjoyed national-level success in his two short years throwing the hammer,” assistant coach Adam Beltran said. “I am excited to work with him and see his progression over the next four years.”
A four-time Kansas state high jump qualifier, Birzer claimed the 2015 state high jump championship and owns a personal best jump of 6 feet, 8 inches.
“Matt will join a young group of Irish high jumpers next fall,” assistant coach Jim Garnham said. “I am looking for him and the other high jumpers to have a major impact on the ACC.”