Molly Seidel placed fifth in a 165-runner field.

Irish Women's Cross Country Team Impressive With Third-Place Finish At Notre Dame Invitational

Oct. 3, 2014

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By Staci Gasser

The Underwater Invitational was a new term runners of the 59th annual Notre Dame Invitational used before the races began on Friday at the Notre Dame Golf Course.

With 12 of the country’s top 50 men’s and women’s cross country teams competing in one of the nation’s premier meets, the Notre Dame women’s squad placed third in the 20-team field, while the Irish men finished 14th among 24 teams.

Due to a downpour of rain on Thursday evening and Friday morning, conditions were not ideal for this year participants. The slippery conditions of the water logged grass forced the shortening of the course for the safety of the runners, but that did not dampen the spirits of the runners or produce strong results.

For the second time in as many meets, the Irish were led by the junior tandem of junior Molly Seidel and Danielle Aragon. Seidel picked up her second top-five finish of the season, while Aragon crossed the finish line in 11th place.

“I think everyone was nervous with the rain, but it actually turned out to be a great day for [the race],” Irish junior Molly Seidel said. “The temperature was just about perfect. I think it was a really fun day and that showed in how we raced.”

The rain had stopped by the time the Women’s 5K Blue race began but the temperature dropped to the mid-50s and the runners had to battle the wind. The Notre Dame women were positioned in the middle when the starting gun went off, but Seidel and Aragon quickly moved to the front of the pack within the first mile of the race. Both would hold their positions in the field until midway through the race.

“I thought it was going to be a lot muddier but it ended up being not as bad as I expected,” Aragon says. “We got lucky with the weather. It could’ve been a lot worse.”

This race is always exciting.,” Seidel said. “The start is very narrow so you immediately go out like a rocket and everyone is jammed in there and you need to get your spot right away.”

New Mexico’s Charlotte Arter, who led her team to the title, easily won the race in 16:09.3.

Seidel pushed hard in the last stretch as she finished in 16:19.9, while Aragon was 10 seconds behind in 16:29.9. Both competitors were happy with how they and their teammates ran despite the conditions.

“The competition was fantastic,” Seidel said. “It’s so exciting to have great teams coming out to this race. It pushes you to be better. There’s nothing quite like having some of the top girls in the country in your race and run some fast times.

“I was definitely stumbling in a couple of spots, but you know everyone else is experiencing the same course. Coach tells us you having to remember to race, not just run and stay competitive even if the conditions are hard.”

Notre Dame associate head coach Matt Sparks was also proud of how the Irish women competed and responded.

“The National Catholic meet gave them a taste of confidence, but most all of the girls were higher than they’ve ever been individually and as a whole,” Sparks said. “Now they can see themselves on a national scene.

“Molly and Dani raced aggressively and raced with confidence and that trickled back to the three, four, five girls who contributed to finish today.”

Sophomore Taylor Driscoll (33, 16:58.2) and senior Emily Frydrych (35, 16:58.9) placed in the top 50 of the 165-runner field.

North Carolina State, who Notre Dame will see later this month at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship meet, came in second.

The Notre Dame men had much tougher competition in the Men’s 5-Mile Blue race with 10 of this year’s 24 teams ranked nationally.

After missing the National Catholic Championships two weeks ago, the Irish welcomed back juniors Timothy Ball and Michael Clevenger, and the duo followed Coach Sparks’ advice.

“One of the themes we had going into the race was you have to give yourself a chance to be successful early in the race, in the first 500 meters,” Sparks said. “With the sloppy and windy conditions, we knew not much was going to change after the first mile in terms of placement within the race. So if you don’t put yourself out in a good position early in the race, that’s where you’re going to stay.”

Ball, Clevenger and Jake Kildoo, who won the National Catholic Championships race on Sept. 19, stayed in the front pack for the majority of the race, but fell back behind faster runners.

Michigan’s Mason Ferlic broke loose from the pack and won the race in 23:15.7 while leading his team to the victory.

Ball placed 26th in 23:50.0 and was followed by Clevenger who took 45th in 24:07.3. Kildoo placed 88th in the 200-man field in 24:27.9.

“We have a lot of young freshmen and sophomores that are running in positions that matter,” Sparks said. “They haven’t been in a race of this magnitude so it was a big learning experience for them. We didn’t get out quick enough and those guys got lost in the shuffle and couldn’t get back in the race. But the top three guys did. I’m proud of how they did today.”

BYU and New Mexico placed second and third in the team rankings, respectively.

In the Open Women’s 5K Race, Notre Dame’s Kaitlin Frei placed 38th (18:33.97) and Elise Brady placed 40th (18:39.40). In the Open Men’s 5-Mile Race, Notre Dame’s Calvin Kraft placed 13th (24:55.58), John Flannery placed 25th (25:28.75), Scott Milling placed 27th (25:35.82), and Kevin Pulliam placed 30th (25:38.02).

“This was a great springboard and first step on our way [to nationals],” Seidel said.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will be in action again on Oct. 17 when they travel to Madison, Wisconsin for the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. Like the Notre Dame Invitational, the race in two week will provide stiff competition for both of his squads.

“We don’t just want to make it to nationals, we don’t want to be `tourists,'” Sparks said. “We want to be there to do something, not be there just to see what it’s like. Each week is a chance to build on that resume.”

The race will feature a 6K race for the women rather than the 5K.

“It’s all about mentally preparing,” Aragon said. “I’m more of a mid-distance runner, so I’m going to have to really mentally prepare for that one extra K.”

“There’s definitely more work to do, there always is in this sport,” Seidel said. “Just by seeing how hard everyone workouts are and what they are doing in practices, I know our fitness is there. The mental boost is what is going to take us from being a good team to a great team.”

1. Michigan (97 points)
2. BYU (112)
3. New Mexico (125)
4. Florida State (162)
T5. Eastern Kentucky (209)
T5. Southern Utah (209)
14. Notre Dame (381)


1. Mason Ferlic, Michigan 23:15.7
2. Erik Peterson, Butler 23:24.8
3. John Mascari, Indiana State 23:24.9
4. Thomas Awad, Penn 23:26.7
5. Matt McClintock, Purdue 23:27.3

IRISH FINISHERS: 26. Timothy Ball (23:50.0), 45. Michael Clevenger (24:07.3), 88. Jake Kildoo (24:27.9), 115. Jacob Dumford (24:39.7), 120. Kevin Durham (24:42.8), 164. Christopher Quinn (25:13.1), 198. Chris Marco (26:15.0).

1. New Mexico (49 points)
2. North Carolina State (123)
3. Notre Dame (147)
4. BYU (157)
5. Penn State (181)

1. Charlotte Arter, New Mexico 16:09.3
2. Agnes Sjostrom, SMU 16:17.7
3. Joanna Thompson, North Carolina St., 16:19.2
4. Katie Borchers, Ohio State, 16:19.4
5. Molly Seidel, Notre Dame 16:19.9

11. Danielle Aragon (16:29.9), 33. Taylor Driscoll (16:58.2), 35. Emily Frydrych (16:58.9), 64. Karen Lesiewicz (17:14.1), 94. Sydney Foreman (17:29.3), 98. Katie Moran (17:30.9).