Sept. 19, 2014
By Staci Gasser
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame cross country teams had another strong showing at the 35th annual National Cross Country Championships on Friday (Sept. 19) at Notre Dame’s Burke Golf Course.
In their first home competition of the 2014 campaign, the Irish women won the team title outright for the eighth straight year, nabbing the top two individual finishes. The men had two runners finish one-two in their race, but were edged out in the final team standings, finishing second overall.
“It was a wakeup call for our men and a confidence builder for the women,” said associate head coach Matt Sparks, who is in his first season on the Notre Dame staff.
Thirty-eight Catholic universities and colleges united to compete in the three races. The 800-plus runners and their fans couldn’t have asked for a better day with a cloudless sky, an abundance of sunshine and a light cool breeze.
“I was particularly excited about how well our women ran,” Sparks said. “Molly Seidel, Danielle Aragon and our entire team trained extremely well during the summer.”
Following prayer circles and team chants, a wave of women runners flooded the opening stretch of the race after the starting gun sounded. The Fighting Irish emerged as a pack in the forefront quickly. Juniors Seidel and Aragon made the race look easy, finishing first and second in 17:09.04 and 17:20.59, respectively. Seidel’s victory marked the 12th straight year the Irish women had a runner win the race.
Seniors Karen Lesiewicz (17:44.55) and Emily Frydrych (17:46.64) placed fourth and fifth, respectively, followed by junior Sydni Meunier (17:56.96) in seventh and sophomore Taylor Driscoll (18:07.04) in 10th, rounding out the top 10 among the 195 women’s runners.
“Going up to the first two miles, I had Karen and Dani right with me, just feeling comfortable and strong, but once I hit the two-mile mark, I dropped the hammer and just wanted to go,” Seidel said. “I was excited at that point and wanted to let it fly.”
“Molly hasn’t had a successful race in about 18 months, and the first thing she said after the race was that she felt like her old self again,” Sparks said. “That’s encouraging.
“Danielle has been a big asset in the middle distance events for us. She is beginning to develop in cross country, which is exactly what we need.”
The Irish women placed first as a team with 19 total points. Marquette placed second with 73 and Xavier (Ohio) came in third with 109.
The men’s team was missing two of its top three runners, Michael Clevenger and Timothy Ball, but senior Jake Kildoo won his first collegiate race in 24:57.98. Sophomore Chris Marco was on Kildoo’s heels finishing second in 24:59.62.
“We came in realizing there were a lot of unknowns because we lost our top five runners after last year,” Kildoo said. “We tried to keep it more controlled and smooth today. We wanted to test the waters a little bit and see where everyone’s fitness [levels are]. We had a lot of inexperienced runners today so we wanted to get an initial benchmark.”
Despite placing in the top spots, the Irish men fell behind first-place Canisius (33) with just a two-point difference. Saint Louis came in third with 128 points.
“We may have come into the meet a little overconfident. We weren’t ready for Canisius, and they were more ready than we were,” Sparks said. “We thought we could use running on our home course more to our advantage.”
Notre Dame freshmen Kaitlin Frei (18:47.89) and Billy Dolan (26:25.11) took first place in the women’s and men’s junior varsity races, respectively.
For Sparks, who officially joined the Notre Dame staff in August, the strong start was especially satisfying.
“I’m proud of the way both our men’s and women’s teams trained to prepare for a season with such uncertainty,” Sparks said.
The great turnout for the Irish at the National Catholic Championship has set the tone for a positive season.
“It’s becoming more a mental thing that we are working towards now. The girls have built that confidence they needed,” Sparks said. “The guys are getting back some of the confidence that we lost today. We will have a little chip on our shoulder and want to come out at the Notre Dame Invitational in a couple of weeks to show that we are a better team than we were today.”
Both Irish squads will be in action in two weeks with an elite field of runners set to compete in the 59th annual Notre Dame Invitational on Friday, Oct. 3.
Women’s JV 5,000-Meter Race Results (22 runners) 1. Kaitlin Frei 18:47.89; 12. Lourdes Brea 20:30.74
Men’s JV 5-Mile Race Results (19 runners) 1. Billy Dolan 18:47.89; 7. Kris Moran 27:17.36
Women’s Division I 5,000-Meter Race Results (93 runners) 1. Molly Seidel 17:09.04; 2. Danielle Aragon 17:20.59; 4. Karen Lesiewicz 17:44.55; 5. Emily Frydrych 17:46.64; 7. Sydni Meunier 17:56.96; 10. Taylor Driscoll 18:07.04; 12. Katie Moran 18:18.53; 20. Sydney Foreman 18:36.21; 56. Gabby Gonzales 19:23.20
Men’s Division I 5,00-Mile Race Results (89 runners) 1. Jake Kildoo 24:57.98; 2. Chris Marco 24:59.62; 7. Jacob Dumford 25:13.21; 10. Kevin Durham 25:24.94; 15. Chris Quinn 25:36.74; 19. Calvin Kraft 25:41.07; 27. Kevin Pulliam 25:59.53; 33. John Flannery 26:06.55; 38. Scott Milling 26:17.74