Jake Kildoo, Staff Writer

With abundant leadership and experience coupled with upcoming young talent, Notre Dame’s men’s and women’s cross country teams are shaping up to turn some heads this fall on the cross country course.

After last year’s disappointing 28th place finish at the NCAA Championships on the men’s side, due in part to an onslaught of mid-season injuries, Coach Joe Piane’s squad is looking to improve dramatically this year.  After having lost only one senior NCAA participant, these guys are anxious to show their true colors against the rest of the country in Terre Haute this November.  Fifth-year captains Jeremy Rae and JP Malette return to lead the group this fall.

After being a consistent number one runner for the Irish last year but having to sit out at the national meet due to an injury, Rae looks to stay healthy this season and will do wonders for this group’s improvements.

Another key returner is Martin Grady, who was the team’s number one man at the national meet in Rae’s absence, just narrowly missing out on earning All-America accolades.

Other returners from last year include seniors Walter Shafer, DJ Thornton and Pat Lesiewicz and yours truly, junior Jake Kildoo.  Also joining the varsity men this season is sophomore Mike Clevenger, coming off of a redshirt freshman cross season and looking fit and ready to contribute.  The addition of freshmen Jacob Dumford and Scott Milling—both high school cross country standouts—looks promising for the future of the program as well. If the men can stay injury-free this year, a top 10 NCAA finish is certainly not out of the cards.

On the women’s side, the loss of seniors Rebecca Tracy and Jess Rydberg will affect the squad, but Coach Tim Connelly’s team looks to replace its losses with a large, talented group of improving returners.  This group finished with a very solid 15th place at last year’s NCAA Championships and looks to improve on that finish this fall.

Returning front-runners Kelly Curran and Alexa Aragon (both seniors) along with junior Gabby Gonzales will lead the women after their stellar pack-running performance at last year’s national meet.  Junior Emily Frydrych and sophomore Molly Seidel are also forces to be reckoned with on this talented squad.  Returning and looking to make an impact are senior McKinzie Schulz, junior Karen Lesiewicz, and sophomores Sydni Meunier and Dani Aragon.  Despite being a group comprised of mostly middle-distance runners, this crew is gunning to prove its versatility over 6 kilometers in Terre Haute come November.

Jake Kildoo is a junior who is still getting used to longboarding around campus. Contact him at jkildoo@nd.edu.