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Sunday, June 23, 2024
The Observer

Squads ready to run their best race at Regionals

Aiming to build off its performance at the ACC championships two weeks ago, Notre Dame will compete at the Great Lakes regional down in Terre Haute, Indiana, this Friday at LaVern Gibson Championship Course.

The women’s team will try to qualify for its seventh straight NCAA championship as a team, and Irish associate head coach Matt Sparks is looking for the team to put forth its best all-around performance of the season.

“We just need to put together a complete race,” Sparks said. “We’ve ran bits and pieces of each race strong all year, but we haven’t put together a complete race [No.] 1 through [No.] 5. I feel like if we can run a complete race, the women can expect to be in the top five and in a good spot on Friday.”

Meanwhile, the youth-driven men’s team will try to qualify for the first time since 2013, and Irish assistant head coach Sean Carlson said he likes what he sees from the team right now and expects his runners to continue their improvement.

“I think what we’ve done a really good job of this year, especially in the back-half of the season, is being consistent and being who we are right now,” Carlson said. “We’re a really young team, and we’re gaining a lot of experience, and guys are doing a really good job of racing to their ability level. What we want to do going into the regional meet is to follow that theme — we’ve gotten better each meet so far this season, and we want to keep doing that the rest of the way, gaining experience and having fun doing it.”

The women’s race will start at 11:15 a.m, while the men will race at 12:15 p.m. Friday.

National Signing Day

With national signing day having come and gone, Sparks said he was pleased with the success of the women’s recruiting class, as the Irish will add a couple of top runners to next year’s squad.

“We had a couple big signees on the women’s side,” Sparks said. “Jackie Gaughan is the top senior 3,200-meter runner in the country, and Elena Denner is the No. 3 senior 3,200-meter runner in the country. They’re going to give us some depth on the women’s side that we’ve been lacking. Depth and front-running abilities — expect both those girls to step in and be in our top five next year.”

The men’s team, however, came away with a historically great haul of talent on signing day, and Carlson said it will mean a lot for the upward trajectory of the program moving forward.

“They haven’t officially come out with rankings yet, but I’m pretty confident we should be the No. 1 men’s distance recruiting class in the country,” Carlson said. “We signed a kid by the name of Danny Kilrea — he won the Illinois state meet and is ranked third nationally. Dylan Jacobs, also from Illinois, is currently ranked second nationally. Then, we signed a kid named Zach Kreft, and he is currently ranked 13th nationally, and has the fastest 5K time in the country currently.

“ ... So basically, we signed three of the top-13 guys in the country, which is going to be huge for us, as they can come in and step into some pretty big roles for us next year. Really elevate our program to the next level. Right now, we have a lot of good depth on the men’s side, but what we’ve been missing is the low-stick, and these guys can fulfill that. We have three freshmen in our top five at conference, so we’re a really young team, and we’re starting to build the program back, start a new tradition and it’s really exciting.”