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Running With The Pack

Sep 30, 2012, 10:47 PM EDT

The No. 20 Fighting Irish didn’t have a woman finish in the medals at the Notre Dame Invitational this past Friday. They didn’t even have a top-10 finisher – the first Notre Dame runner to cross the finish line was junior Kelly Curran, who came in 15th.

But the Irish still finished second overall with 110 points, trailing only No. 2 Florida State, who claimed the individual title and five of the top 12 finishes. (Yep, you read that right – in a race with 19 team, four of them ranked, the Seminoles got their last scorer across the line before the second-place squad had any runners finish. It was that impressive a performance.)

Notre Dame might have been a few spots back in the pack, but its spread from first to fifth runner wasn’t much larger than Florida State’s. Curran came in 15th, and after her senior Rebecca Tracy(18th), freshman Dani Aragon (22nd), sophomore Gabby Gonzales (24th), and freshman Molly Seidel (31st) crossed the finish line in rapid succession.

And that’s exactly what Coach Tim Connelly wanted to see.

“Our goal is to be the best team we can be, and right now the way we’re constructed is by having a big group with a real short gap from one to five,” Connelly said. “Now the goal is to keep moving that pack of five up forward. The nice thing I saw today is that we don’t have to rely on one or two people. There was a different mix than there was two weeks ago, and that’s going to help us down the road.”

Friday was a big day for the men’s squad, too, as they finished third behind No. 20 Tulsa and Princeton. That put the No. 24 Irish ahead of some big-time competition.

“It was very good. I think we were like the eighth-ranked team coming in, and then we ended up third, so we beat some teams that are pretty highly ranked,” men’s coach Joe Piane said. “It’ll help us get an at-large bid for the NCAAs.”

Connelly said that the way both the men’s and women’s teams approached the race bodes well for the future.

“Hopefully they can bring that same intensity and that same competitiveness two weeks from now when we race in Wisconsin,” Connelly said.

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