Sept. 4, 2015

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame cross country team begins its 2015 campaign Friday at the Crusader Open hosted by Valparaiso University.

The meet, which is scheduled to commence at 6 p.m. (ET) with the women’s 5k race, features Valparaiso, Purdue, as well as the Fighting Irish. The men’s 5k race rounds out the competition, with a 6:45 p.m. (ET) scheduled start.

Name: Crusader Open
Location: Valparaiso, Ind. (Sunset Hill Farm County Park)
Schedule of Events:
6:00 p.m. (ET) – Women’s 5k Race
6:45 p.m. (ET) – Men’s 5k Race
Competing Teams:
Notre Dame

As Notre Dame prepares for its season-opening contest, here are the important details to get a head start on the competition:

The Irish women’s contingent was selected as the preseason conference favorite in the annual coaches’ poll, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced Wednesday. Considered the group projected to bring home the ACC title, the Irish held off second-place NC State in the preseason standings.

In the women’s preseason national rankings released Tuesday afternoon by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), Notre Dame was projected 21st overall, which was an improvement from its 29th-place standing at the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

On the men’s side, the Irish were picked to finish eighth in the conference. Syracuse, which captured the 2013 and 2014 ACC men’s titles, led the standings as a near-unanimous selection.

A headline grabbing freshmen class will join the Irish this season.

Hailed as the nation’s best by both FloTrack and, the women’s group includes a pair of five-star recruits – Anna Rohrer and Annie Heffernan – and one four-star standout – Rachel DaDamio. One of the roster additions specifically recognizable to the South Bend area is Rohrer. A local product from Mishawaka, Ind., Rohrer arrives at Notre Dame with several state and national awards, including the 2014-15 National Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

A trio of runners will look to have an immediate impact for the men’s team. Aaron Roe, who hails from Seattle, Wash., arrives with a cross country state championship to his name, while Joseph Suarez and Anthony Williams were multi-state qualifiers in Illinois and Indiana, respectively.

Notre Dame returns a host of accomplished veterans to compliment the talented rookie class.

Molly Seidel, who became Notre Dame’s first All-American since 2009 and finished 19th overall at the NCAA championships, returns to the course after securing a national championship in the 10,000-meter run at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Seidel will be joined by fellow veterans and NCAA finishers Danielle Aragon, Karen Lesiewicz, Taylor Driscoll and Sydni Meunier. Overall, the women’s contingent posted a 29th-place showing at the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

For the men’s team, senior Michael Clevenger will be a competitor to watch following his individual qualification to the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Clevenger, native of Decatur, Ill., was also an All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. Senior Timothy Ball competed in four meets last season and put together a Top 50 finish in the 8k at the ACC championships.

This marks the 13th consecutive season the Irish have kicked off their season with the Crusader Open. Hosted by Valparaiso University for the 27th time in 2015, Notre Dame will strive for its eighth men’s team title in the last 11 seasons and fifth crown in the past eight trips for the women.

Individually, only once since 1999 have the Irish men failed to place a competitor in the top three. Notre Dame has registered eight individual men’s titles and five on the women’s side since 1999, including back-to-back first-place showings by Jennifer Handley in 1999 and 2000.

Last season, inclement weather shortened the men’s race to four kilometers; however, the resilient Irish adjusted and pulled out a first-place finish as a team. Chris Marco, a junior this season, led the pack, becoming the first student-athlete to capture the individual crown since Paul Springer in 2010. Marco’s time of 11:04.2 just outlasted his classmate Jacob Dumford, who placed second in 11:09.5. The top finishers on the women’s side were current sophomores Sydney Foreman and Kaitlin Frei. Foreman earned fourth with a time of 13:37.7, while Frei claimed seventh in 13:49.7.

The Notre Dame men’s entries for the Crusader Open features:
Billy Dolan
Jacob Dumford
Kevin Durham
Calvin Kraft
Chris Marco
Kevin Pulliam
Aaron Roe

Representing the Irish women:
Lourdes Brea
Elli Brady
Ella Fennelly
Sydney Foreman
Kaitlin Frei
Kelly Hart

For an inside look into the Notre Dame Cross Country/Track and Field program, follow the Fighting Irish onTwitter,Facebook and Instagram.

– Ashley Albertson, Athletics Communications Assistant Director