Mens Cross Country: Irish prepare to surprise nation in NCAA Championships
By JOE LINDSLEY
Last year, the Notre Dame mens cross-country team entered the NCAA Championships after victories at the Big East and Great Lakes Regional Championships and ultimately finished fifth in the finals. This year circumstances are a little different for the Irish, who lost three All-Americans due to graduation.
Notre Dame just barely qualified to run in today's national championships, which will be held in Terre Haute, Ind., by receiving the final at-large bid. Last year, they were automatic qualifiers.
"We just want to go out there and prove to everyone that we belong there," Irish sophomore Todd Mobley said. "We were the last spot in, so people question whether we deserve to be there. After Monday, I think they will know that we do."
Ever since an injury four weeks ago, Mobley has not been able to turn in his usual team-leading performances. Freshman Tim Moore finished first for the Irish in both the Big East and Great Lakes meets. Mobley, who still has not fully recovered, believes he will be able to match or better his individual performance from last year's national championships, when he finished in 38th place and earned All-American honors.
"I am not 100 percent," Mobley said. "I am well enough that I think I can challenge for as well as I did last year, if not better."
Despite Mobley's injury, the team feels that they are ready to challenge much of their competition, and the Irish are hoping for at least a top-15 finish.
"We're the most ready we've ever been all year," Moore said. "There's really only one race. Every work out, every race has been preparing us for this."
The Irish are set on proving their worth to the other teams that will be competing for the national title.
"Our goal was to get here," freshman Eric Morrison said. "We were really focused on that last race. A lot of teams are counting us out. I'd like to go out there and show them what the Irish are made of."
According to Mobley, the key to Notre Dame's success will be in the team's ability to focus only on what they can do, rather than worrying about their competition.
"We want to go out there and not get caught up in who we are racing and perform to our abilities for the first time this season," Mobley said. "We'll surprise a lot of people in doing so."
If the Irish have the right mindset, an area in which they have had some trouble during the season, Mobley believes they will have some surprises in store for the other teams in Terre Haute.
"A lot of teams [when] they come into this meet they get caught up with who they're racing," Mobley said. "If you go in with experience and a realistic mindset, if you don't make dumb mistakes, you can perform really well and pass a lot of people that you shouldn't be able to."
All Sports Stories for Monday, November 25, 2002