JP Malette and Jeremy Rae are used to competing against each other. As high-schoolers in Ontario, attending Assumption College Catholic and Lakeshore Catholic, respectively, the two elite young runners crossed swords on the track more than once. Malette apparently maintained the upper hand in those meetings.
“Before college, I considered JP a big rival of mine…he probably didn’t feel the same about me since he won almost every race,” Rae jokes.
What lured these northerners across the national border to a university nestled in the heart of a small Indiana city? The answers: camaraderie, convenience and comfort.
“I visited some great schools my senior year, but what drew me to Notre Dame was how close the team seemed to be,” Rae recalls. “I remember going to team dinner at South [Dining Hall] with my host (2012 graduate Jordan Carlson) and there were around 30 guys and girls all sitting together having a great time.”
“For me, I was looking for somewhere relatively close to home,” Malette explains. “No other university is able to combine athletics, academics and spirituality better than Notre Dame, and for me this was very important. I knew I would be able to develop and grow in these areas while at Notre Dame.”
Since arriving in South Bend five autumns ago—Malette and Rae both graduated in 2013, earning degrees in science business and political science, respectively—the two have exchanged their national rivalry for the distinct intimacy that only teammates can cultivate.
“Once we became teammates, it became much more about helping each other improve,” Rae comments of his relationship with Malette. “We’ve lived together the past three years, room together at away meets, and run most of our miles together. It’s gotten to the point where it’s weird not training and racing with him.”
“We’ve grown up together over the last five years and we’ve been fortunate enough to live together for three of those years. Surprisingly, if a track athlete isn’t running, he lives a pretty sedentary life. Jeremy and I have spent many hours just sitting around, watching movies and playing video games together.”
When Malette and Rae aren’t living “sedentary” lives, they run a fair amount—and run well.
Both runners held or currently hold Canadian or provincial junior records, in distancing ranging from 1,000meters (m) to 3,000m. Both have represented Canada at global competitions. (Malette donned the Maple Leaf for the World Cross Country Championships, and Rae has competed at the Pan Am Junior Games, and just this summer earned a silver medal in the 1,5000 in Russia at the World University Games.) Both medaled as Big East champions before the Irish transferred to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) at the beginning of this academic year.
Most importantly, Rae holds the most distinctive of collegiate honors: He owns an NCAA gold medal, from Notre Dame’s victory in the indoor distance medley relay (DMR) in March 2012.
“Winning the NCAA title in the DMR was an unforgettable experience, and something I hope to accomplish again in a little over a month,” Rae says.
Both runners have served as team captains each of the past two years, after Cross Country and Track & Field head coach Joe Piane tasked them with setting an example for the large Irish roster. The runners have responded in an effort to provide for younger runners the same sense of comfort they derived from each other’s presence five years ago.
“Being able to transition into college with Jeremy made it a lot easier,” Malette recalls of his freshman year. “Although it was tough my first year, I saw that Jeremy was succeeding and I knew that if I kept doing what I was doing, I eventually would get to where I wanted to be.”
“When JP and I were freshman, we had a great leader in fifth-year senior Dan Clark, who showed us the ropes and really eased our transition into collegiate racing,” Rae says. “This year, we’ve been put in that position with some of our younger guys, like [freshman middle-distance runner Jacob] Dumford and [freshman middle-distance runner Chris] Marco, who will eventually lead the miler group once JP and I leave.”
Malette and Rae have been training together since their earliest days at Notre Dame: They are both middle-distance runners, racing at distances anywhere between 800m and 5,000m.
“JP’s always been a great training partner,” Rae says. “He’s got a great sense of pace, and I can always count on him to hit the times coach asks of us.”
The age difference between Malette and the freshmen can admittedly induce nostalgia.
“At the start of this year I was pretty jealous of the freshmen on the team,” Malette remarks. “I remember what it was like getting used to college life and how different and new everything was. I try to set an example for them and offer any help I can give. The most important lesson is how quickly their four years (maybe five, if they’re lucky) will go by, so don’t take anything for granted.”
As they reflect on their collegiate careers coming to an end, Malette and Rae fondly recall their favorite memories.
“The time we spend as a team over fall break is always my favorite time of year,” Malette states. “Every year we spend a few days in Northern Michigan. It’s always refreshing to go up there after mid-terms and just spend time running and hanging out with teammates.”
Rae’s favorite memories are of some of his brightest races.
“My favorite races have been the three Meyo miles I’ve been in,” Rae says in reference to one of collegiate running’s most prestigious events. The Irish host the Meyo Invitational at the Loftus Fieldhouse each February, with the meet’s signature event, the one mile run, attracting national attention. “The crowd and atmosphere for that meet is second to none, and being able to race well in front of friends, teammates and family has been a bonus,” Rae concludes.
Rae’s performances at the Meyo Meet reflect his preference for it. On Saturday February 8, Rae won the Meyo Mile for the third straight year, breaking the Notre Dame school record in 3:57.25. Malette was not far behind, running 4:00.92.
The completion of their collegiate careers will finally signify a parting of ways for the two friends.
“I’m currently in the MBA program and am looking for a job in finance. My undergrad was in the sciences so I’m trying to learn as much as I can before I enter the real world,” Malette relates, indicating his plan to enter the business world. Rae, on the other hand, isn’t ready to hang up the spikes quite yet.
“I plan on continuing to train and race through at least 2016,” Rae tells the Rover. “Over the next few months, I’ll be looking for a sponsor and group with which to train.”
Wherever their future paths lead them, Malette and Rae can move forward with the knowledge that they have served Notre Dame’s running programs well over the past five years. They aren’t getting ahead of themselves, however—there are still races to run and championships, both team and individual, to win.
As long as that’s the case, expect to see Malette and Rae’s names in the hunt, near the top of the list, representing Canada and Notre Dame with class and pride.
Michael Bradley is a senior studying philosophy & theology who lives in Dillon Hall. As a former track runner, he can attest firsthand to Jeremy and JP’s friendship and talent, and will always be grateful to them for their leadership. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.