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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Irish win their own crusade in Valparaiso

For the 12th straight year, Notre Dame kicked off its season Friday with the Crusader Open in Valparaiso, Ind., winning the men’s team title.

Irish junior Kevin Durham rounds a corner during the Notre Dame Invitational at the Notre Dame Golf Course on Sept. 27.
Observer File Photo
Observer File Photo
Irish junior Kevin Durham rounds a corner during the Notre Dame Invitational at the Notre Dame Golf Course on Sept. 27.
The Irish were led by sophomores Chris Marco and Jacob Dumford, both of whom raced sparingly last year. Marco and Dumford finished the four-kilometer race in under 11:10, the only runners to do so that day, and grabbed the top two spots.

“It was encouraging to see sophomores Chris Marco and Jacob Dumford lead us to the win,” Irish coach Matt Sparks said. “Those are two guys we will need to help us later in the season.”

Dumford and Marco led a Notre Dame squad made up almost entirely of underclassmen, many of whom were racing for the first time in their collegiate careers. Nine men made the trip to Valparaiso, including five sophomores, three freshmen and one junior.

The Irish placed all five of their scoring runners inside the top 10 and posted a final score of 24 points, which put the team eight points ahead of runner-up IUPUI and 61 points in front of the host Valparaiso.

“The highlight of the meet was the men's team coming home with the win,” Sparks said. “Having only spent two weeks practicing with this group, I was not sure what to expect out of the younger athletes.”

Freshmen John Flannery, Kevin Pulliam, Calvin Kraft and William Dolan all made their Irish debuts and placed in the top seven for Notre Dame. Sophomore Kris Moran also competed for the the first time in a Notre Dame singlet.

On the women’s side, the Irish only raced four athletes and failed to record a team score. Individually, however, freshman Sydney Foreman finished fourth in her first collegiate race and led all Irish finishers. Three of the four Notre Dame runners were freshmen.

None of the projected varsity runners for either the men’s or women’s squad made the trip to race, instead staying home and participating in a hard workout, Sparks said.

“We are confident in the fitness of the upperclassman men and women who did not compete and used the weekend to train,” Sparks said. “This meet was an opportunity for underclassman to be accountable for the team’s success.”

Western Michigan took the women’s team title with 34 points, followed closely by IUPUI, who fell four points short of a tie.

The Irish do not race again until the National Catholic Championships on Sept. 19. Notre Dame will host the 35th edition of the event at the Notre Dame Golf Course. Both the men’s and women’s teams have won five straight titles, with the women taking home a share of the championship for the past nine years.

Sparks said he feels confident his team can repeat as champions again.

“We do have a couple of athletes that will be nursing some injuries, but we will race all healthy athletes — men and women — at the National Catholic meet,” Sparks said. “We have a strong tradition of running well at the National Catholic meet, and we are working to continue that trend.”

The Irish take to the course again on Sept. 19 for the National Catholic Championships at Notre Dame Golf Course.