Notre Dame cross country travelled to Earlysville, Virginia to compete in the ACC Championships Friday morning. The No. 6 women's runners battled to a runner-up finish, narrowly falling to heavy favorite and defending national champion NC State. On the men’s side, No. 6 Notre Dame placed three runners in the top-10 on its way to earning fourth place in a tight race where just six points separated the second and fourth-place teams. Irish sophomore Carter Solomon used a late surge to claim the individual men’s championship, becoming just the second Notre Dame runner ever to do so.
Heading into the meet, finishing in the top-two would have qualified as a success for the Notre Dame women. A loaded No. 1 NC State team that beat the Irish by 177 points at the Nuttycombe Invitational two weeks earlier appeared virtually unbeatable. However, it quickly became clear on Friday that the Irish were a much-improved squad that was ready to fight for a title. NC State featured several elite frontrunners, meaning that any team hoping to challenge them would need strong efforts from their entire top-five. Notre Dame had exactly that on Friday, as the Irish were the only team to put four runners in the top-eight places and five in the top-14.
Junior Olivia Markezich has led the way for Notre Dame all year, and she came through again. Markezich finished in third place, behind only NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy, who won the race, and the Wolfpack’s Kelsey Chmiel, last year’s ACC Champion. Just behind Markezich was a group of three Notre Dame runners. Senior Katie Thronson finished in sixth, sophomore Siona Chisholm took seventh and graduate student Maddy Denner was just behind in eighth. Thronson and Chisholm continued to play crucial roles in their first season after transferring to Notre Dame. Denner, an All-American in 2021, provided a strong performance after having been hindered by injury for much of the regular season. Graduate student Anna Sophia Keller completed the scoring for Notre Dame with a 14th-place finish.
Having placed in the top-21, each of Notre Dame’s five scoring runners earned All-Conference honors as the team finished with a score of 38, narrowly ceding victory to NC State, who finished with 34 while winning their seventh consecutive ACC title. In the close defeat, the Irish established themselves as legitimate national championship contenders and will be eager to get another shot at taking down the Wolfpack at the NCAA Championships in November.
The Notre Dame men, coming off of a performance at Nuttycombe that saw them place fifth against most of the nation’s best teams, entered the ACC meet as co-favorites along with No. 8 Wake Forest. A standout performance from the Deacons on Friday that saw them put three runners in the top-five and four in the top-eight on their way to a 42-point victory meant that the Irish would be fighting for second after having won the previous two ACC titles. Notre Dame sophomore Carter Solomon, though, had his eyes set on first. Halfway through the 8k race, Solomon was in sixth, but he steadily worked his way up until he trailed only North Carolina’s Parker Wolfe heading into the final uphill stretch. Using a huge kick, Solomon passed Wolfe in the final meters before the finish line, winning the individual ACC title by just 0.2 seconds with a time of 22:55.9.
Freshman Izaiah Steury and sophomore Josh Methner also performed well for the Irish. Steury finished ninth and was the highest freshman finisher in the race. Methner, competing for just the second time all season, rounded out the top-10 less than a second behind Steury. Both Irish runners received All-Conference accolades along with Solomon. Irish seniors Quinn Gallagher and Matthew Carmody placed 31st and 41st, respectively, to complete the top-five for Notre Dame. Despite a strong top-three, the sizable gap between Notre Dame’s third and fourth finishers left them vulnerable to be overtaken by teams bunched in more tightly. The Irish ultimately slipped down to fourth with a score of 92. No. 16 Syracuse took second place with 86 points and No. 18 North Carolina finished in third with 87.
Up next, the Irish will be closer to home as their postseason journey continues with the Great Lakes Regional in Terra Heute, Indiana on Nov. 11. Notre Dame is the defending Great Lakes champion on both the women’s and men’s sides, and the Irish will need to finish in the top-two in order to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 19 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Both teams have expectations of finishing among the top teams nationally and will look to build on their ACC Championship performances in the coming weeks.