Oct 24, 2012, 12:06 PM EDT
The postseason begins for the Irish men’s cross country team this Friday, Oct. 26, with the BIG EAST Championship Meet at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, NY.
After a disappointing 26th place finish in the Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 12, the team is ready to bounce back and compete with the top teams in the BIG EAST Conference.
“Training has been going real well. We had fall break last week, and we were able to get together and have some really good workouts,” senior and top runner Jeremy Rae said. “Our last race was pretty awful, but we know we’re fit. At the ND Invitational, two races ago, we ran really well and we beat a lot of ranked teams so I think we just need to get our confidence back.”
Rae, who finished 14th out of 316 runners in the Wisconsin Invitational and first overall in the National Catholic Championship on Sept. 14, believes that the Irish match up well with the elite teams in the BIG EAST. Among those opponents that will present the Irish with strong competition are No. 16 Syracuse, No. 25 Villanova, and No. 27 Georgetown.
“This year the BIG EAST is really competitive. Anybody can win it on any given day,” the senior said. “Villanova and Syracuse are probably the favorites, so I think if we’re in the top 3 that’s a good day, but of course our goal is to win.”
Junior Martin Grady, who placed second for the Irish at the Wisconsin Invitational, agrees with Rae that the team is ready to compete on Friday.
“There’s no doubt the team’s all fit, we just have to piece it together in a race,” the junior runner said. “We’ve done well this season as a team. Our last race went pretty awful, but it’s probably a good time to learn it. By learning that we had to get out our mistakes in that race, it will only help us in the upcoming meets.”
Coach Joe Piane’s expectations for Friday’s meet are very clear.
“I don’t think any of us ever go into a BIG EAST meet not wanting to win, so that’s got to be the goal,” Coach Piane said. “Can we do it? Right now, we’re probably only seeded about fourth in the conference, but we’ll be ready and will find out on Friday.”
When asked about whom he expects to step up for the Irish, Coach Piane showed no hesitation in mentioning the team’s go-to leader, Jeremy Rae. However, he also believes that the team’s top pack of runners will decide whether or not the Irish will bring home the championship.
“Jeremy’s done a terrific job all year long, there’s no doubt. Martin also has been running very well. We have a good group of about 6 or 7 guys that are doing great, and we just have to run well on Friday. If we do, then we’ll have a great shot at winning.”
Jeremy Rae and the Irish know what they did wrong in the last meet, and have done what they can to learn from their mistakes.
“At Wisconsin we weren’t ready. There were about 330 people in the race, and some of us thought that we could go out slowly and pass 150 people in the last half of the race, and that’s just not going to happen,” Rae said.
“In the BIG EAST meet, it will be a lot easier to find each other as a pack and closer to the front. With Wisconsin, even though it was a bad experience for most of us, it will just get us ready for when we qualify for nationals-hopefully.”
As they pursue a league title and possibly a national championship, the Irish are certainly prepared for the challenges ahead.
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