Sept. 4, 2003
With former All-American Todd Mobley healthy once again and a talented group behind him, the Notre Dame men’s cross country team is looking to return to the top-10 at the NCAA Championship after a 22nd place finish in 2002.
One thing that makes a coach’s job easier is when he has a team that expects nothing but the best from itself. Irish men’s cross country coach Joe Piane is in that position this year.
“If you asked the guys, their goal would be to get back the NCAAs and to be in the top-10 in the country. Is that realistic? I think it is.” Piane says.
Irish men’s cross country in 2003 will be led by Mobley, a senior, and sophomore Tim Moore.
Mobley was an All-American in cross country in 2001, but was hampered last season by leg injuries that eventually caused him to miss the entire track and field season in 2003. He did, however, manage to post a few impressive performances early in the 2002 cross country campaign, winning the adidas Invitational and National Catholic Invitational, in addition to a third place in the Notre Dame Invitational. Later in the season, Mobley placed 26th in the Great Lakes Regional.
Moore meanwhile came in as a highly-touted freshman last year and did not disappoint. He started his career off in style finishing second to Mobley at the adidas Invitational and Moore duplicated that performance two weeks later with a second-place finish at the National Catholic Invitational. The post-season was no less kind to the freshman, as he finished in 10th place at the BIG EAST Championship, earning all-BIG EAST honors. Moore was then 14th at the Great Lakes Regional and 63rd at the NCAA Championship.
“Last year were running with Todd who was basically injured at the end of the year and that certainly had an effect on Tim. Well, Todd is very healthy and Tim had a very good track season, so those two guys up front are very good.” Piane says.
Aside from Mobley and Moore, Notre Dame has several runners that will be vying for the last three scoring positions on the team. The number one candidate will likely be senior David Alber, the team’s number three runner last season. Alber scored in every Irish meet last season and improved as the season wore on, highlighted by a 34th-place finish in the Pre National Meet and a 32nd-place finish at the BIG EAST Championship.
There are also several other returnees in the mix. Sophomore Kaleb Van Ort ran well despite injury in ’03. Junior Eric Morrison ran 4:01 in the mile at the Meyo Invitational in 2003 and placed 28th at the BIG EAST Championship. Ryan Johnson finished in 33rd place at the BIG EAST meet.
There are also a few freshmen that Piane believes will be contributors this season and in the future.
Kurt Benninger should be the top freshman in the coming season. Benninger was a silver medallist at the Pan-Am Junior Games in the 1500 meters. He also competed for the Canadian national team at the cross country championships.
Two other freshmen that Piane expects to contribute are Dan Driscoll and Matt Plaska. Driscoll is a former Montana state cross country champion and Piane thinks that with a little experience he will be a major contributor. Plaska, an all-state athlete in track and cross country in his home state of Michigan, should be a help to the team later on, and could factor into the teams plans this year, according to Piane.
Despite some uncertainty, Piane is confident that whoever steps in behind Mobley and Moore will lead the team to success in ’03.
“We actually return six of our top seven from last year, we only graduated our seventh man, John Keane, who had a marvelous track season. So you replace him with Benninger. You also have a healthy Kaleb Van Ort who was sick all of cross country last year, and he scored in the BIG EAST (outdoor meet) in the 10,000 meters. Sean O’Donnell scored in the BIG EAST (indoor meet) in the mile, and of course Vinnie Ambrico. You replace John Keane with four guys, so we’re going to be better.” Piane says.