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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

Irish cross country claims top-four finishes at ACC Championship

On Friday, Notre Dame cross country trekked south to compete in the ACC Championship at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. The No. 14 Irish men and No. 8 women entered the meet with hopes of placing near the top of the conference and did just that, finishing in fourth and second, respectively.

The men’s race was expected to be tightly-bunched, with four teams ranked in the top 16 nationally and no clear-cut favorite. But No. 11 North Carolina put on an impressive display, placing four runners in the top 10 to tally a score of 49 points and claim the ACC title. At last year’s ACC Championship, the Tar Heels’ Parker Wolfe led the race for most of the way before being outkicked in the final stretch by Notre Dame senior Carter Solomon. This time around, Wolfe got the job done and claimed the individual title.

The Irish did not have any runners in the lead pack, instead relying on the strength of their depth. Notre Dame was the only team in the top five that did not have a runner finish in the top 10, but the Irish had the tightest one-through-five spread and the top-scoring fifth runner of any team.

Leading the way for Notre Dame was graduate student Tyler Berg, who made a big move toward the middle of the race that carried him to an 11th place finish. He was closely followed by sophomore Ethan Coleman in 15th. Coleman impressed in his first postseason action after redshirting last fall.

Notre Dame runners continued to swarm the finish line. Sophomore CJ Singleton, graduate student Vincent Mauri and senior Josh Methner came through in 19th, 20th and 21st to complete the Irish’s scoring. Their top-21 finishes meant that all five of Notre Dame’s scorers earned All-ACC honors. Seniors Robbie Cozean (30th) and Solomon (31st) were the sixth and seventh finishers for Notre Dame, crossing the line before the fifth runner of all but two opposing teams.

The Irish’s balanced effort landed them a team score of 86. That was enough to finish in fourth place, closely behind No. 4 Syracuse’s 65 and No. 16 Virginia’s 77.

On the women’s side, there was far less uncertainty about which team was the favorite. No. 2 NC State entered the day as seven-time defending ACC champions and had no trouble claiming an eighth victory. Led by individual champion Katelyn Tuohy and third-place finisher Kelsey Chmiel, the Wolfpack scored just 37 points en route to a dominant win. That left Notre Dame in a heated battle with No. 10 Virginia for the runner-up spot.

Unlike the men, the Irish women got a significant boost by virtue of having a top finisher. Graduate student Olivia Markezich was among the leaders throughout the entire race and came through in fourth place. Markezich was joined on the All-ACC team by junior Siona Chisholm and senior Erin Strzelecki, who took 13th and 16th.

The Cavaliers held a slim three-point advantage over the Irish through three runners. But the remainder of Notre Dame’s pack was able to erase that margin. Graduate student Andrea Markezich, freshman Grace Schager and junior Sophie Novak finished consecutively in 23rd, 24th and 25th. Freshman Gretchen Farley closed out the Irish’s top seven in 32nd.

That performance was just enough to push the Irish past Virginia. Notre Dame finished as ACC runners-up for the second straight year with a score of 80 points, and the Cavaliers settled for third place with 82. There was a clear drop-off after the top three teams, as No. 28 Syracuse finished fourth with 167 points.

With the ACC Championship now behind them, the Irish turn their attention to NCAA competition. On Nov. 10, Notre Dame will travel to Madison, Wisconsin, for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. Both Irish teams will aim to place in the top two in order to secure automatic bids to the NCAA Championship in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Nov. 18.

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