Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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42 DECEMBER 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED ND SPORTS BY TODD D. BURLAGE N otre Dame director of track and field and cross country Matt Sparks admits to becoming more satisfied each time he takes another look at the final results from the 2019 NCAA Championships held Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind. The Irish men entered the meet ranked No. 12 and finished eighth, their best national result since a third-place showing in 2005. The Irish women were ranked No. 19 and finished 15th. "Really a good step in the right di- rection," Sparks said. "We exceeded expectations!" Arkansas won the women's 6K championship, while BYU won the men's 10K race, dethroning three- time defending champion Northern Arizona. With a 17th-place individual finish for Notre Dame, gradu- ate student Anna Rohrer capped off her amazing col- legiate career by leading the Irish women while also be- coming the first four-time All-American in Notre Dame cross country history. A refreshing blend of tal- ent and humility, Rohrer nar- rowly missed becoming the nation's first women's cross country runner since 1999 to finish in the top 10 of the NCAA Championships in all four competitive seasons. "I've had quite a few ups and downs over the past four and a half years," Rohrer said of an amazing career that was sometimes sidetracked by in- juries. "But looking back on it, I can see how all of these ex- periences have really shaped me. "I'm really just thankful for all the well-rounded ex- periences that I have had, all the opportunities that Notre Dame provides." Following the race, Sparks was left only to marvel, appre- ciate and celebrate the success that Rohrer enjoyed at Notre Dame, along with the com- mitment and legacy she brought to his program. "Whatever Anna had in the tank is what we saw in practice and com- petitions," Sparks said. "There is no- body like Anna that came every day with their best effort that I've ever coached." Plagued by nagging injuries throughout her college career — se- vere enough to keep Rohrer off the course her entire junior season — this legendary Irish athlete gradually real- ized that slowing down might speed her up. "It has always been a challenge to get Anna not to train," Sparks ex- plained. "She finally began to under- stand that sometimes we'll be better off in the long run by taking a down day." Enduring a light to steady rain at Terre Haute, with temperatures in the mid-30s and wind-chill values drop- ping into the 20s, Sparks said portions of the championship course included ankle-deep mud — a setting that can bring out the best, and sometimes the worst, in competitors. "About as tough as you can get," Sparks said. "But that's what cross country is about. Everybody is running in the same conditions. You can't use that as an excuse for not performing, and we fought through it." Following Rohrer in the women's race among Irish s c o re r s w a s s o p h o m o re Maddy Denner, who finished 81st. On the men's side, Notre Dame sophomore Dylan Ja- cobs earned All-America hon- ors with his 29th-place finish. Junior Yared Nuguse finished 47th in a satisfying eighth- place team effort. "Our men ran great today," Irish men's cross country coach Sean Carlson said. "Ev- eryone we put on the line did his job and, most importantly, ran as a team." The Irish men finished 14th in last year's champion- ships, while the women were eighth. ✦ Cross Country Squads Score Big At NCAA Championships Anna Rohrer became the first four-time All-American in Notre Dame cross country history with her 17th- place finish at the NCAA Championships Nov. 23. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA Irish Roundup HOCKEY (8-2-2 OVERALL, 4-2-2 BIG TEN) No. 5 Notre Dame lost its first series of the year at Michigan State Nov. 22-23. The two teams skated to a 1-1 overtime tie in the opener after Notre Dame evened it with 1:39 remaining in regulation. The following evening, the Spartans edged the Irish 3-2 when they found the back of the net with just 1:10 left to go in the contest. The Irish returned to action with a two-game home series versus Bowling Green Nov. 29-30. WOMEN'S SOCCER (11-8-2 OVERALL, 4-4-2 ACC) The Irish were eliminated from the NCAA Championship with a 1-0 setback at No. 2-seeded South Carolina in the second round Nov. 22. The Gamecocks scored a goal with 4:52 to go the first half and held off the Irish in the second stanza. MEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING Notre Dame posted a second-place finish out of five teams at the Ohio State Invitational Nov. 21-23 in Columbus, Ohio. The Irish totaled 2,346 points, trailing only host Ohio State's 2,436.5. The Irish are off until they host Northwestern Jan. 17. WOMEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING The Irish came in third out of eight squads at the Ohio State Invitational Nov. 21-23 in Columbus, Ohio. Notre Dame compiled 1,790.5 points, behind only Kentucky's 2,346.5 and host Ohio State's 2,518.5. Notre Dame will get back into the pool Jan. 11 with a tri-meet versus Iowa and Illinois at Iowa City, Iowa. VOLLEYBALL (18-9 OVERALL, 11-6 ACC) Notre Dame dropped a pair of road matches, falling 3-0 at Louisville Nov. 22 and 3-2 at Georgia Tech Nov. 24. The Irish conclude the regular season with a home contest versus Duke Nov. 29. — Steve Downey

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