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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

Irish men place first, women finish runner-up at Joe Piane Invitational

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Irish runner Joshua Methner crosses the finish line following a sixth-place finish at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 29.


Notre Dame cross country got their first taste of postseason-caliber competition Friday morning. The Irish hosted several nationally ranked teams for the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational at Burke Golf Course. Both Notre Dame sides staked their claims as being among the best teams in the country. The Irish women earned a runner-up finish, while the men claimed the title.

Irish women battle with defending champion Wolfpack

Few teams have managed to compete with the NC State women over the past few seasons, as they have claimed back-to-back national titles over the past two years. One of those teams was last year’s Notre Dame squad, who came within four points of upsetting NC State at the 2022 ACC Championships.

This season, the No. 1 Wolfpack are again the team to beat, and Friday represented the first of several opportunities the No. 4 Irish will have to challenge them throughout the regular and postseason. Notre Dame came up short — finishing in second place with 53 points to NC State’s 44 — but showcased their ability to keep up with the Wolfpack.

The Irish received a major boost with the season debut of graduate student Olivia Markezich, an All-American and the team’s top returning runner. Markezich was held out of the National Catholic Invitational on Sept. 15 as she continued to recover from a long summer of racing, but she showed little rust while earning a sixth-place finish Friday.

Just ahead of her in fifth was Siona Chisholm. The junior has enjoyed a breakout season while leading the Irish in both races that she’s competed in. Prior to Saturday, she also took first place at the National Catholic Invitational earlier in the month. With Notre Dame now back at full-strength, Chisholm and Markezich make up a formidable top duo that few teams in the country can match.

The rest of the Irish’s top group was just as strong, with the team putting five runners in the top 17 out of a competitive field of more than 130 athletes. Graduate student Andrea Markezich and freshman Grace Schager finished just seconds apart in 12th and 13th. Senior Erin Strzelecki rounded out Notre Dame’s scorers with a 17th-place finish.

Despite the impressive showing, the Irish still fell to NC State. The Wolfpack placed a pair of runners in the top four and added a third finisher in ninth. With their final scorers coming in at 14th and 15th, they were able to create the separation needed to narrowly push past Notre Dame. No. 22 Alabama finished in third with 73 points. Those three teams were a class ahead of the competition, as no other team scored less than 150.

Men use strong team effort to claim first place

The men’s race was just as competitive, with a trio of top teams — No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 27 Alabama and Florida State — grappling for the team title. Like the Irish women, the men’s team saw several top runners compete for the first time this season. Their return proved a difference-maker, as Notre Dame picked up a hard-fought victory.

After claiming the individual title at the National Catholic Invitational, senior Josh Methner was at the front of the pack again Friday. Racing against several of the elite runners in the country, Methner secured a low stick for the Irish with a sixth-place finish. Sophomore CJ Singleton was next to cross the line for Notre Dame in 13th.

The Irish continued to score top placements with sophomore Ethan Coleman (16th) and senior Carter Solomon (24th), both of whom were racing for the first time this fall. Coleman impressed in his first competitive cross country race at the collegiate level after a redshirt freshman campaign. Solomon, the individual ACC champion and an All-American performer last fall, is expected to be at the front of the pack for the Irish as the season goes on.

Needing a strong fifth runner to secure a victory, the Irish turned to Tyler Berg, a graduate transfer from Columbia. Berg crossed the line shortly after Solomon in 28th place, sealing Notre Dame’s team score at 87. That was enough to push them past Florida State’s 95 and Alabama’s 114 for a home-course win for the Irish.

After a two-week break, Notre Dame will be back in action for their final regular-season meet, the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational, on Oct. 13. The Nuttycombe field will feature a majority of the nation’s top teams and will provide the Irish with a preview of what they will face as they move toward the postseason.

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