Irish pass first test with win at Valparaiso
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
Associate Sports Editor
The Irish cross country teams passed their first test of the 2000 season, easily defeating its lesser opponents Western Michigan and Chicago State in the Valparaiso Invitational,
The women's squad stonewalled the competition, finishing first, second, third, fifth and sixth in the race for an overall score of 17 points, far better than Western Michigan's 45 points.
"To be very honest, the competition wasn't great," women's cross country coach Tim Connelly said. "We scored 17 points and actually had 15 in the top 20. We put three in front of their first runner. It was actually even more lopsided than the score."
Sophomore Jennifer Handley won the 5,000-meter race in a time of 17 minutes, 58 seconds. Just behind her were junior Hilary Burn in 18 minutes, 16 seconds, and freshman Megan Johnson.
"I'll tell you who I was really, really pleased with was Hilary Burn," Connelly said. "She and Megan did a really, really good job of running together the entire race.
"Last year Hilary missed the entire season with mono, and freshman year she came in and wasn't really ready to go a whole lot after a long track season," Connelly continued. "I don't think she was really sure of herself as far as her ability to run cross country. She proved to herself that she can be a really good cross country runner, and that's going to be a big help to us down the road."
The Irish used the first meet as a test of how well they could run as a pack, rather than focusing on times.
"We still have some work to do, but we did work together as a pack at the beginning," Handley said. "We were concerned with us running as a team and winning overall more than times. Our freshman I was impressed with especially."
The men's team also handily out-raced its competition, but not by as large a margin as the women. Notre Dame totaled 27 points, while Western Michigan wound up in second with 39 points.
"It was a fairly good start, but we still have a lot to work on, so it's fairly mixed emotions," sophomore Marc Striowski said of the meet.
Junior Luke Watson, the top returning runner, captured the individual men's title in an 8,000-meter time of 25 minutes, eight seconds. It was his first individual cross country meet championship for the Irish. Striowski crossed the line 16 seconds behind Watson for second place.
"We ran pretty well up front, and we're pretty strong in our first six men or so, but we need to work on our depth and work together more," Striowski said. "It was a rust-buster to get the rust out of our system after not running since May."
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, September 12, 2000