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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The Observer

Irish, Belles kick off cross country season

After a long summer of training and several weeks of on-campus practice, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s cross country both got their seasons underway this weekend. The Irish women’s and men’s teams made the short trek southwest for the Winrow Valparaiso Open on Friday. The Belles competed in Charlotte, Michigan, at the Olivet Comet Open on the same day.

Irish claim individual titles at Valparaiso

On Friday afternoon, Notre Dame competed in its annual season-opening event at Valparaiso. The Irish brought a squad comprised mostly of underclassmen for the semi-competitive meet. The primary goal of the weekend was to find race experience for the team’s talented young runners.

“The meet this weekend is an official, countable meet, but it’s almost a bit of an exhibition-type of display for some of the younger [runners] to put a uniform on for the first time in cross country,” Irish director of track and field and cross country Matt Sparks said before the meet.

Given that opportunity, those less-experienced runners found great success, as the Irish brought home the individual title in both races.

The women were led by freshman Grace Schager, who took first place in her first Notre Dame race, winning with a time of 17:04 in the 5k. The Irish freshmen continued to impress, as Gretchen Farley and Arianne Olson finished just behind Schager in second and third.

Sophomore Caroline Lehman and junior Molly Grant completed Notre Dame’s sweep of the top five. Graduate student Claire Sievern (7th) and junior Paige Grant (9th) made it seven Irish runners in the top 10 overall.

The Irish women cruised to a team victory, even with several of their top finishers competing as “unattached” and not contributing to team scores. They finished with 36 points, ahead of Purdue’s 45 and Western Michigan’s 68.

The men’s race played out similarly, with a group of several Irish runners near the front of the pack. Notre Dame sophomore Gabe Hinrichs, who was redshirted as a freshman and is now competing in cross country for the first time, earned the individual victory. Hinrichs was the lone runner to break 18 minutes on the 6k course. His time of 17:59 pushed him just past Irish freshman Kevin Sanchez and sophomore John Schuler. The two took second and fourth in the race, respectively.

A string of Goshen and Purdue runners filled out the remainder of the top 10 before Notre Dame junior Luke Schildmeyer and sophomore Sam Rich finished just one second apart in 12th and 13th. Sophomore Julian Kingery placed 30th to round out the Irish men.

Despite three of the top four finishers coming from Notre Dame, the Irish were edged out by Purdue. The Boilermakers used a balanced effort to put five runners in the top 15, finishing with a score of 45. The Irish were nine points back with 54.

For Notre Dame, Friday’s meet highlighted the impressive depth of both teams and the strength of their most recent recruiting classes. A mostly untested group found success against a competitive field and should improve as the season goes on.

The preseason No. 4 Irish women and No. 8 Irish men will be back in action on Sept. 15 to host the National Catholic Invite, the team’s first home meet of the season.

Belles post standout performances across the board

Having closed out the 2022 season with strong showings at the MIAA Championship and the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, Saint Mary’s picked up right where they left off during Friday’s Olivet Comet Open. The Belles placed five runners in the top 32 with a team effort that featured impressive races from freshmen and big improvements from veterans.

Belles senior Amanda Tracy led the charge. She placed fourth overall with a 19:10 5K time that represented a huge 70-second personal record. A pair of Saint Mary’s freshmen were among the team’s top finishers in their first college race, as Savannah Paulson placed 20th and Jordan Siminski crossed the line shortly after in 26th. The freshmen bookended junior Susanna Bernovich, who took 24th with a 42-second personal best.

Senior Haley Greene (32nd), sophomore Isabelle Auch (37th) and senior Sarah Harman (45th) were all in the top 50 overall to close out Saint Mary’s top seven. Sophomore Mary Weber took 51st while improving on her previous record time by 24 seconds. Freshman Ellie York placed 56th in her college debut.

The event was not team-scored. But the Belles performed well against a field featuring several conference opponents that they will be competing against throughout the season. Saint Mary’s will be back on the road on Sept. 16 for the Gil Dodds Invitational in Warrenville, Illinois.

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