rohrer

With 200 meters to go, Notre Dame sophomore Anna Rohrer (607) pulls away from New Mexico's Alice Wright (557) at Friday's Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational. Rohrer, a Mishawaka High School grad, finished first in 16:11.7, the second-fastest winning time in meet history.

Tribune Photo/TIM CREASON

SOUTH BEND — The biggest college cross country meet in the nation could be found Friday at Notre Dame.

So, too, could possibly be the best college runner.

Breaking away from the lead pack with about 1,100 meters to go, Notre Dame sophomore Anna Rohrer surged to the women’s championship at the 61st annual Joe Piane Invitational.

Cheered on by a large contingent of her former Mishawaka High School friends and teammates, Rohrer scorched the homestretch at Notre Dame’s Burke Golf Course, crossing the finish line of the 5,000-meter race in 16 minutes, 11.7 seconds.

She missed the meet record – and course record – by barely two seconds. As it is, Rohrer clocked the second-fastest winning time in meet history.

“I have a lot more confidence this year,” said Rohrer, who finished sixth at the NCAA cross country championships as a freshman.

“I was feeling really ready, really anxious to get out there and race, especially with my teammates around me,” she said.

The women’s blue (elite) field Friday included No. 1-ranked Providence, No. 2 New Mexico and No. 5 North Carolina State, among others. It was loaded.

The top-ranked Friars didn’t disappoint, scoring 117 points for the win. But it was a gut-wrench after that, with North Carolina State (149) holding off unheralded Eastern Michigan (159) for second.

No. 16-ranked Notre Dame, with 208 points, finished eighth.

Rohrer was running her first race since competing in the 5,000-meter run at the World Junior Track & Field Championships in Poland last July. It was a long break, she said, “… but I think the rest did me some good.”

Earlier this week, the running Website, FloTrack, ranked Rohrer as the No. 5 women’s college runner in the nation. On Friday, one of the women she beat was No. 4, Alice Wright of New Mexico.

Wright finished second in 16:16.0.

“A little before a thousand meters (to go), on the backstretch, I was feeling good, and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to turn the corner and I’m going to break away. I’m ready to go,’” Rohrer said.

Over the last half mile, only Wright and California’s Bethan Knights gave chase, but as the homestretch came into sight, Rohrer surged away.

Seeing all the Mishawaka fans along the course gave her a huge lift, Rohrer said.

“As soon as I saw them, I got a huge smile on my face,” Rohrer said. “That is definitely a perk of staying close to home.”

“I’m not going to say I’m surprised about Anna’s victory, because she was sixth at the NCAA meet last year,” said Notre Dame coach Alan Turner. “But it shows what a true competitor she is. She’ll be fighting for the NCAA title this year.”

Annie Heffernan, also a sophomore, was Notre Dame’s No. 2 finisher, placing 20th in 16:47.1.

“I’m a lot smarter this year than last year,” she said. “The experiences I had last year prepared me a lot better for this year.”

Notre Dame’s men didn’t fare quite so well in the men’s blue (elite) race, finishing 25th. Chris Marco was 121st to lead the Irish men.

WOMEN’S BLUE RACE

(5,000 meters)

TEAM SCORES: Providence 117, North Carolina State 149, Eastern Michigan 159, New Mexico 166, Baylor 169, Utah 171, Mississippi 187, Notre Dame 208, California 219, Minnesota 285, Air Force 312, Purdue 319, Boston College 391, Florida State 396, Alabama 402, Texas 407, Weber State 409, Vanderbilt 429, Oregon State 438, North Carolina 466, Clemson 471, Texas A&M 490, Nebraska 663.

TOP 10 FINISHERS: 1, Anna Rohrer (Notre Dame) 16:11.7. 2, Alice Wright (New Mexico) 16:16.0. 3, Bethan Knights (California) 16:21.8. 4, Maggie Montoya (Baylor) 16:28.4. 5, Calli Thackery (New Mexico) 16:30.9. 6, Grace Barnett (Clemson) 16:31.0. 7, Jordann McDermitt (Eastern Michigan) 16:33.1. 8, Erika Kemp (North Carolina St) 16:35.0. 9, Sarah Collins (Providence) 16:37.8. 10, Isabelle Kennedy (Boston College) 16:38.9.

OTHER NOTE DAME: 20, Annie Heffernan 16:47.1 … 50, Danielle Aragon 17:10.9 … 56, Rachel Dadamio 17:13.5 … 81, Sydney Foreman 17:30.1 … 152, Kaitlin Free 18:16.3.

MEN’S BLUE RACE

(8,000 meters)

TEAM SCORES: Mississippi 83, UTEP 99, Eastern Kentucky 168, Providence 182, Illinois 183, Southern Utah 187, Washington State 189, California 216, Air Force 242, Bradley 268, North Carolina 271, Eastern Michigan 285, Texas 322, Texas A&M 330, Florida State 398, Purdue 406, Alabama 472, Weber State 522, Baylor 546, Nebraska 553, Texas-Arlington 567, North Carolina 570, New Mexico 571, Yale 605, Notre Dame 691.

TOP 10 FINISHERS: 1, Sean Tobin (Mississippi ) 23:31.9. 2, George Parsons (North Carolina St) 23:34.9. 3, Robert Brandt (California) 23:50.9. 4, MJ Erb 23:52.0. 5, Jonah Koech (UTEP) 23:52.6. 6, Antibahs Kosgei (Alabama) 23:53.4. 7, Antony Kosgei (UTEP) 23:55.0. 8, John Whelan (Washington St) 23:55.6. 9, Trent Brendel (California) 23:56.5. 10, Amos Kosgey (Eastern Kentucky) 23:57.1.

NOTRE DAME: 121, Chris Marco 25:09.6 … 142, Anthony Williams 25:24.8 … 151, John Flannery 25:33.5 … 158, Tyler Keslin 25:35.8 … 168, Jacob Dumford 25:43.2.

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