Sept. 15, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The nationally-ranked Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country teams will open the home portion of their 2005 schedule Friday afternoon when they play host to the 26th annual National Catholic Championships at the Burke Memorial Golf Course on the Notre Dame campus. The meet will begin with a junior varsity/open race at 3:30 p.m. (EST/CDT), followed by the 5K women’s varsity race at 4:15 p.m., and the five-mile men’s varsity race at 5 p.m. — admission is free to all races. Notre Dame is one of just four schools in the country to have both of its cross country programs ranked among the top 10 in both preseason polls, joining defending NCAA men’s and women’s champion Colorado, Stanford and BYU in that elite group.
Conceived in 1980 by current Irish head men’s cross country coach Joe Piane, the National Catholic Championships will feature approximately 900 male and female participants from 35 different prominent Catholic institutions around the country, representing a diverse cross-section of squads from the NCAA Division I, II and III, and NAIA levels. Notre Dame has won the past 10 National Catholic titles (and 17 total) on the men’s side, and has claimed all 11 of its women’s titles in the past 13 races, including each of the last three.
The Notre Dame men’s cross country team heads into the National Catholic Championships with a freshly-minted No. 7 national ranking, courtesy of the MONDO preseason poll released Tuesday by the United States Cross Country Coaches Association (USCCCA). The Irish opened their season last week with a victory at the Crusader Invitational in Valparaiso, Ind., taking six of the top nine spots in the field. Piane will roll out a very similar lineup for Friday’s National Catholic varsity race, paced by freshman Chris Rodriguez (Kelso, Wash./Kelso), who earned runner-up honors at the 8K Crusader Invitational in 26:01. Sophomore Zach Einterz (Zionsville, Ind./Community) was third at the Crusader Invitational (26:12), with a pack of four Notre Dame runners taking sixth through nine places in a two-second span. Sophomore James Millar (Granger, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) headed up the charge in sixth place (26:28), followed a second later by classmates Brett Adams (Davenport, Iowa/Assumption) and Daniel Bradley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s), with freshman Mark Moore (Novi, Mich./Novi), completing a dominating top-10 surge by the Irish. Sophomore Mike Popejoy (Wheaton, Ill./Warrenville South) wasn’t far back in 12th place (26:37), and like the others, he will see action at the National Catholic Championships.
The two newcomers to the Notre Dame varsity lineup will be freshmen Robbie Barany (Yakima, Wash./Eisenhower) and Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah/Judge Memorial). Barany earned high school All-America honors with his eighth-place finish at last year’s Foot Locker Nationals, while Smyth was a two-time state champion in both cross country and track, who was named the 2005 Utah Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year.
“Our younger guys did a good job of getting off on the right foot last week at Valparaiso,” Piane said. “We are looking to add to that at this week’s meet, as we put a couple more of our freshman into the mix. This is the time of year when we want to see which runners we will be able to call on later in the season for the BIG EAST and NCAA races.”
The Notre Dame women’s cross country team, ranked third in the preseason FinishLynx poll, continues to work on building depth for the later stages of the season, and will tinker with its lineup a bit from last week’s third-place Crusader Invitational squad that was comprised almost entirely of freshmen and first-time runners. Sophomore All-American Sunni Olding (Minster, Ohio/Minster) will make her first start of the season, joined by seniors Elizabeth Webster (Dearborn, Mich./Divine Child), Jean Marinangeli (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) and Loryn King (Arlington Heights, Ill./St. Viator). Both Olding and Marinangeli ran in last year’s NCAA Championships, where Notre Dame finished fourth, while Webster ran in five meets last year and has placed in the top 10 at the National Catholic Championships each of the past two seasons, highlighted by a third-place showing in 2003. Meanwhile, King is working her way back from injury and appeared in last week’s 6K Crusader Invitational, finishing in 25th place (24:16).
Juniors Ann Mazur (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seton-LaSalle), Katie DeRusso (Fairport, N.Y./Fairport) and Amy Kohlmeier (Sarnia, Ontario/St. Patrick’s) also are penciled into the Notre Dame varsity lineup this week. Mazur was the top Irish finisher at the Crusader Invitational, taking sixth place in 23:30, while DeRusso and Kohlmeier will be making their 2005 debuts. DeRusso competed in last year’s NCAA Championships, while Kohlmeier is running in only her second career cross country race, although she turned in a solid ’05 indoor track season in which she contributed to Notre Dame’s runner-up finish at the BIG EAST Championships.
Rounding out the Irish contingent are two more participants from last week’s Crusader Invitational — sophomore Julie Opet (Wayne, Pa./Radnor) and freshman Becca Bauman (Grand Rapids, Mich./Catholic Central). Opet was 16th at the Valparaiso meet (23:41), while Bauman got her college career off to a solid start with a ninth-place finish (23:35).
“None of us were pleased with last week’s results at Valparaiso and we’re expecting better things this week,” Notre Dame head women’s cross country coach Tim Connelly said. “We want some of our veterans to get their feet wet this week, and also give them a chance to provide some leadership on the course for our younger runners.”
Complete results from the National Catholic Championships will be available upon conclusion of the day’s races at the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com) as well as the Notre Dame Sports Hotline (574-631-3000).
— ND —