Nov. 19, 2015

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By Ashley Albertson

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It’s onward to the 2015 NCAA Championships for the Notre Dame cross country team, as the title pursuit continues Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky. The Fighting Irish women will contend as a unit after automatically qualifying for the race at the 2015 Great Lakes Regional Championships last week. Representing the Notre Dame men is senior Michael Clevenger, who earned an individual qualification with a third-place finish at regionals.

The women’s 6k championship race commences at 12 p.m. ET, while the men compete in a 10k championship race at 1 p.m. ET.

Name: 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships
Location: Louisville, Kentucky – E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park
Schedule of Events:
Women’s Championship Race (6k): 12 p.m. (ET)
Men’s Championship Race (10k): 1 p.m. (ET)
Awards Ceremony: 2 p.m. (ET)

As the Fighting Irish prepare for the contest, here are the important news and notes to get a head start on the competition:

This season marks the fifth consecutive the Notre Dame women’s contingent has qualified as a team for the NCAA championships. The Irish earned an at-large bid to the showcase last season, ultimately placing 29th as a unit in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Overall, Notre Dame’s highest finish on the women’s side of third was registered at the 2002 edition of the NCAA championships. Molly Huddle, the 5,000-meter American record holder, led the way with a sixth-place showing at the meet. Notre Dame has one national title on the men’s side, which was achieved in 1957. Individually, a pair of student-athletes, Greg Rice (1938) and Oliver Hunter (1942), have been crowned national champions. The highest individual finish from the Notre Dame women’s program is third – JoAnna Deeter (1996) and Stephanie Madia (2005).

Molly Seidel was Notre Dame’s top finisher last season at the NCAA championships, placing 19th with a time of 20:23.4. With the finish, Seidel became the program’s first All-American since 2009 and the ninth different Irish woman to do so. Veteran Karen Lesiewicz joins Seidel as the team’s returners from last season’s championship contingent.

Clevenger, Notre Dame’s lone men’s team representative, competed individually at the 2014 NCAA Championships, finishing 92nd in a time of 31:29.9.

Notre Dame associate head coach Matt Sparks took time this week to discuss the state of the Irish team heading into the meet. Here are some highlights from the conversation:

On preparation this week for the national meet
“It’s been good. This is a really low-key, rest and recover week, and everyone is feeling well about what they did last week in the qualifying process. That carries over to a solid week of practice.”

On how he addresses the high expectations within the team
“We talk about just doing the same thing we’ve done all year going into the national meet. It’s just another meet. It’s a fun experience, not a scary experience. Most all of these girls have been competitive on a national level, whether it’s been in high school or college. I stress, don’t reinvent yourself, because it’s just the next step. Do the things you have been doing and good things will happen.”

On the development of Molly Seidel
“She’s getting to the point now where the workouts really matter in terms of what she does. That sounds like coach talk, but what it really means is that the first year was more about giving her the confidence and belief in herself that she could be a good runner again. That wasn’t necessarily, ‘should we run mile repeats?’ It was more let Molly be Molly. Now, it’s at the point where she’s confidant in who she is, so the X’s and O’s of the training come into play. I’m really excited to see what she can do Saturday because it puts more pressure on me to put the right game plan together for her. We’re on the same page and ready to go.”

On the lone qualifier on the men’s side, Michael Clevenger
“He’s been building all season. He didn’t run as well at the ACC championships as he did at the regional meet. His progression through the season to peak at the right time is something he’s done very well. I know the big next step for him is to finish top-40 in this meet and be an All-American. He races against the best guys in the country all year and he knows them personally as friends. I think he’s starting to, deep down inside, believe he can compete with anyone in the country. He’s ready to do that on Saturday.”

The Notre Dame women’s team continued its upward progression in the national rankings released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (Nov. 21). The Fighting Irish were projected 21st in the preseason standings; however, the contingent stands 15th in the latest national rankings, polling third among their ACC counterparts. New Mexico stands on top the leaderboard, while Colorado, Arkansas, Providence and Oregon round out the top-5 teams.

It was a defining day for the University of Notre Dame cross country program. Competing at the 2015 NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday, Nov. 13, a pair of Fighting Irish women – Seidel and Anna Rohrer – claimed first and second place in the women’s 6k championship event, while the women’s team earned an automatic qualification for the NCCA championships with a runner-up showing. The men’s team garnered a fourth-place standing, while Clevenger qualified as an individual for NCAAs.

The tandem of Seidel and Rohrer put on a repeat performance of their one-two finish at the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships. The pair led for a majority of the race, trading positions between first and second throughout the mile markers.

Seidel, a senior from Hartland, Wisconsin, outlasted her rookie teammate, Rohrer, down the stretch to earn the regional title in a time of 20:04.4. The All-American continues adding to her impressive resume this season, after recently winning her fourth ACC title.

Seidel pulled away from the competition in the women’s 6k-championship race Friday, Oct. 30 at the 2015 ACC Cross Country Championships, which was hosted by Florida State at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. Overall, the Notre Dame women placed third with 96 points.

The title-winner was not the only member of the Fighting Irish squad earning headlines. A true team effort, the veteran finished just ahead of Rohrer, a freshman standout. The pair became the first female teammates to finish one-two at the ACC championships since Duke’s Shannon Rowbury and Clara Horowitz in 2005.

As Seidel crossed the finish line at the 2015 ACC Cross Country Championships, she set social media abuzz with news of her achievement. From start to finish, Seidel’s path to claiming the women’s 6k-championship title was tracked by outlets and individuals, offering both praise and admiration. Recap Seidel’s title-winning performance with this social media rundown: LinkIRISH LINEUP
The Notre Dame women’s team entries features:
Molly Seidel
Anna Rohrer
Annie Heffernan
Rachel DaDamio
Karen Lesiewicz
Ashlyn Rambo
Sydney Foreman

Representing the Irish men:
Michael Clevenger

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 at the University of Notre Dame, joined the Fighting Irish athletics communications team in August of 2015 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame men’s basketball, men’s lacrosse and cross country/track and field programs. Albertson is a 2013 graduate of The Ohio State University, where she also earned her master’s degree in 2014.