Notre Dame men second in cross country regional

Tim Creason
Tribune Correspondent

Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish have earned a return trip to the NCAA men’s cross country finals. The Irish women, meanwhile, must wait and see.

Though they let a big lead slip away over the second half of Friday’s Great Lakes regional race at Madison, Wis., Notre Dame’s men still finished second and earned an automatic bid to next week’s NCAA finals at Terre Haute, Ind.

Notre Dame’s women, meanwhile, finished fifth, led by a fifth-place individual finish from Mishawaka native Anna Rohrer.

Only the top two teams earn automatic bids to the NCAA finals. The Irish women find out if they have earned an at-large bid when the NCAA announces its 31-team fields at 5 p.m. (EST) Saturday.

In the 10,000-meter men’s race, No. 17-ranked Purdue won its first regional championship in program history, coming from behind to nip the Irish, 79-85.

No. 19-ranked Notre Dame bolted to a big early lead on the University of Wisconsin course, with five runners among the top 12 at the 2,000-meter mark and six among the top 18 after 4,000 meters.

At the halfway point, the Irish held a 12-point lead over the Boilers, 46-58.

But over the last 4,000 meters, Notre Dame’s pack began to break apart and Purdue surged into the lead. The Boilermakers opened a 28-point advantage with a little over a mile to go, but coming down the homestretch, the Irish sprinted and narrowed the gap to six points at the end.

Sophomore Dylan Jacobs led the Irish with an eighth-place individual finish, clocking 30:20.5. Yared Nuguse, the reigning NCAA men’s 1,500-meter champ in track, placed 10th in 30:28.9.

In all, four Irish finished among the Top 25, with Andrew Alexander 15th (30:44.1) and Kevin Salvano 25th (30:55.7).

“We ran a great team race today and had all seven of our guys show up,” said Irish men’s cross country coach Sean Carlson in a press release afterwards. “This is great momentum going into the national meet and our boys are ready at the perfect time of the year.”

Cincinnati’s Aaron Bienenfeld won the men’s individual title in 29:59.9, while Butler’s Euan Makepace finished second (30:05.5)

The men’s race was a dogfight to the end, with 17 points separating the top five teams. Michigan was third at 86, No. 13-ranked Indiana scored 87 and No. 9 Wisconsin had 96.

Much like the Irish men, Rohrer — a graduate senior — led through most of the women’s 6,000-meter race. Running a couple steps in front of the lead pack, she passed through the 2,000-meter mark in 6:38 and the 4,000-meter point in 13:35.

But as the finish line drew near, runners with greater leg speed surged past. Wisconsin’s Alicia Monson finished first in 19:59.9, while Michigan State’s Annie Fuller was second (20:01.1).

Rohrer came home in 20:11.4.

No. 6-ranked Michigan State won the women’s title with 49 points, ahead of Michigan (74) and No. 7 Wisconsin (100).

No. 16 Notre Dame scored 144, with two finishers among the top 25. Sophomore Jacqueline Gaughan placed 16th in 20:49.5.

Maddy Denner was Notre Dame’s third finisher, placing 38th.