No. 24 women face first test as ranked team
By KATIE HUGHES
For the women's cross country team, early season mission No. 1 is accomplished.
The Irish earned a No. 24 ranking after last week's victory at the Notre Dame Invitational and will send the same solid team to the NCAA Pre- National meet this Saturday at the Furman Cross Country Course in Greenville, S.C.
Pre-Nationals will be the biggest challenge for the Irish thus far, and only the second meet in which the full team will run.
Juniors Jen Handley, Muffy Schmidt and Jen Fibuch, freshmen Christi Arnerich and Lauren King, who won last week's meet, and sophomores Megan Johnson and Julie Schmidt, will run in Greenville.
Last week the Irish crushed the 18 other teams in the field, led by a first place finish by King in her first collegiate cross-country race.
King pulled away in the last part of the race to win by six seconds. A third place by teammate Handley and another top 10 finish by Johnson showed the team's speed up front. Arnerich finished 20th and Fibuch finished 24th.
"Last week gave them a lot of confidence," said Johnson. "We were excited to be ranked, but we want to keep building on that."
This meet will help the Irish reach their goal qualifying as one of only 30 teams to get a bid to nationals.
When they run at regionals, the top two teams automatically go to nationals, but who Notre Dame beats at a meet like Pre-Nationals will determine where they will stand when it comes time to get an at large bid.
"Our goal is to go there and beat people who are going to be automatic qualifiers [for the NCAA meet], or who will be among the top non-automatic qualifiers," said Irish head coach Tim Connelly. "We want to put ourselves in a position to get an at large bid."
The Irish did not know specifically who would be in their race, but the meet will include teams from No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 North Carolina State, No. 4 BYU and No. 6 Boston College. Two races will be run Saturday, in an effort to balance the competition.
"We don't know who's going to be in our race," said Connelly. "But we just want to go down there and worry about being as good as we can. It's a really critical meet. Out of the top 25 ranked teams, 21 will be there."
All Sports Stories for Friday, October 12, 2001