To say confidence is high on the men’s and women’s cross country teams at Notre Dame is an understatement. Every collegiate athlete dreams of competing for a national championship, but only a small percentage actually accomplishes this goal. For the Notre Dame cross country team this year, competing for a national championship is more of an expectation than a dream. After both the men’s and women’s teams finished strong at last year’s NCAA championships, the two teams began the season ranked in the top 11 nationally.
The men’s team captured their first Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in program history last year before placing 14th at the NCAA championships. Due to last year’s success, the Fighting Irish came in at No. 9 in the season’s first poll and backed this up with a dominant performance at the team’s first meet of the season, the Crusader Classic Invitational hosted by Valparaiso University.
Although the competition was not quite as stiff, the men’s team placed five runners in the top 10 and won the meet by nearly 20 points. Looking forward, the men’s team has three more meets before heading to Blacksburg, Va. for the ACC championships.
After losing only one runner from last year’s ACC championship team, the Fighting Irish men’s team is led by experienced runners who have proven they can compete on the national stage. Junior Yared Nuguse, who won the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships last year in the distance medley relay and the 1500 meter, and sophomores Danny
Kilrea and Dylan Jacobs look to lead Notre Dame back to the top of the podium at the ACC championships and an even higher finish at the NCAA championships.
The women’s team has had just as much success in recent years, finishing second at last year’s ACC championships and eighth at the NCAA championships. Similar to the men, the women came in at No. 11 in the season’s first poll and were picked to finish second in the ACC behind only NC State.
The Fighting Irish appeared to be on a mission on Sept. 6 at the Crusader Classic Invitational where they placed five runners in the top 10 (as well as freshman Olivia Markezich, who finished seventh while racing unattached). Notre Dame took the three top spots, winning the meet by almost 30 points.
As the women look ahead to their next two meets, both hosted by Notre Dame in the next month, they will rely on sophomores Maddy Denner and Jocelyn Long, as well as senior captain Kelly Hart, to keep them in the conversation for another strong finish at this year’s ACC championships and NCAA championships.
One thing is clear on both teams: They have the runners and coaching to make a strong push to win their first national title since 1957. The Fighting Irish have youth across the board and will look to remain nationally relevant for the coming years, but this year’s team certainly wants to prove that Notre Dame can compete with many of the nation’s best in cross country.