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‘Playoffs’ begin for Irish Cross Country

Nov 8, 2012, 11:41 PM EDT

Kelly Curran (left) and Rebecca Tracy are poised to lead the Irish in the Great Lakes Regional race. Kelly Curran (left) and Rebecca Tracy are poised to lead the Irish in the Great Lakes Regional race.

After a disappointing fifth place finish in the BIG EAST championship meet, the Fighting Irish women’s cross country team seeks a rebound performance and a national championship meet bid.

The Irish stumbled in their last meet finishing fifth in a meet they expected to finish within the top three. Junior Kelly Curran led the Irish contestants with a time of 21:21 on the arduous Van Cortlandt Park trail. She crossed the finish line in 12th place despite running the last mile with only one shoe. Senior Rebecca Tracy also finished with all BIG EAST honors in 15th place.

A top two finish in the regional qualifier would guarantee the Irish a spot in the national championship meet. Finishing any lower than that would leave the team hoping to be awarded one of the at-large bids.

“Hopefully the disappointment from BIG EAST will motivate to race our best in regionals,” senior Jessica Rydberg said.

Madison, Wisc. is the host of the regional meet, and will be the host to Notre Dame for the second time this season. In their first appearance, the Irish finished 12th within the elite field entered in the Wisconsin Invitational.

“Wisconsin’s course is probably the best course we race on all year,” Rydberg said. “There are a few hills, but nothing too tough; the grass is very well groomed.”

This meet is the equivalent of a championship playoff series for cross country teams all over the nation. For many seniors Friday will be their last collegiate race. Obviously, the Irish look to avoid that fate for their seniors.

“If we don’t qualify for nationals, this would be my last cross country race,” Rydberg said. “I’m so happy with my team; I can’t imagine a better group of girls to spend my last season with. No matter what happens, I’ll be proud to have been a part of this team.”

The race begins Friday at 1 pm ET. Times will be updated on und.com at the conclusion of the contest.

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