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National Catholic Championship Looming for Irish

Sep 12, 2012, 8:41 PM EDT

This Friday, the University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s cross country team will play host to the 33rd annual National Catholic Championship on the Notre Dame Burke Golf Course.

The National Catholic Championship is a mainstay in Notre Dame athletics. Joe Piane, long-time men’s cross-country coach, founded the race in the fall of 1980.

“I thought it would be an interesting thing to do,” Piane said. “Conferences bring people together, and I thought that Catholicism would be an great alternative to bring people together to compete.”

The race is unique in the fact that it is scored in multiple ways. There is an overall team championship in which all teams are considered. After that, all Division I teams are thrown out of the mix and a smaller school will also be deemed champion of the meet.

“Being from a Division III school myself, I always thought it was a kick in the pants to compete against the big schools,” Piane said. “This gives the smaller schools something to compete for.”

Since the race’s inception, Irish men and women have dominated the race, claiming a total of 37 team championships. Individual success is clearly present too, with 14 individual winners in the men’s races, and 13 first-place runners in the women’s competition.

Irish runners will look to defend three meet titles this year. Senior Jessica Rydberg claimed first in last year’s 5-kilometer race and both the men’s and the women’s teams were victorious a year ago.

Notre Dame is coming off of a strong season opener in which both the men and women placed second in the Crusader Open in Valparaiso, Ind.

National rankings have the Irish men entering the meet as the 25th-ranked team in the country, while their female counterparts are ranked 22nd.

Thirty-three men’s and 34 women’s teams will compete in Friday’s meet, which begins at 3:30 pm ET with an open 5-mile race for men and 5-kilometer race for women. That race will be followed by the women’s varsity 5-kilometer race at 4:15 pm and conclude with the varsity men’s 5-mile contest at 5:00 pm. Official results will be posted on following the conclusion of each race, with a meet recap to follow.

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