MADISON, Wis. — On a brisk morning in Wisconsin, the Irish competed in the Pre-National Invitational. The grass crunched under their feet as they raced, following an early morning frost delay. The cool temperature did not deter the team as they raced to one of their best finishes at the event in recent history.
After finishing the 2017 Pre-Nationals Invitational in 15th place overall, the men bounced back, taking fifth in 2018 while the women placed fourth. The men defeated five nationally ranked teams while the 23rd ranked Irish women were bested by only nationally ranked New Mexico (3), Michigan (10) and Stanford (5).
“I am very proud of our Irish women today,” assistant coach Kendra Foley said. “They showed up with the confidence that they could be a top school, and they fought and competed for it.”
The women, anchored by three top-20 finishers, placed fourth overall in a sea of 35 teams. Freshman, Jackie Gaughan, finished first for the Irish and 13th overall with a time of 20:34.18. Anna Rohrer (17th; 20:43.85) and Rachel DaDamio (19th; 20:47.73) rounded out the Irish in the top-20. With 239 total participants in the Women’s White 6K, Jessica Harris dressed for the Irish for the first time this season, finishing the 6K in 21:07.96 for 44th overall. Sydney Foreman (21:35.61), Annie Heffernan (2139.5) and Annasophia Keller (21:43.3) also competed.
“We still have work to do before we are back on this course for the national meet, but I think today gave us confidence to continue working towards our goals,” she added.
The men finished fifth out of 34 teams in their 8K division in which nine nationally ranked teams competed. Only nationally ranked BYU (2nd), Washington (12th), Syracuse (8th) and UCLA (25th) finished above the Irish on Saturday.
“The men beat 5 nationally ranked teams today. If you didn’t know before, now you know who we are,” assistant coach Sean Carlson said of the team’s improvement.
Tallying 220 points for a fifth place team finish, sophomore, Yared Nuguse led the Irish in Wisconsin, crossing the line in 24:03.70 for 13th overall. He was followed by Andrew Alexander (23rd; 24:14.40) and Danny Kilrea (36th; 24:26.61) less than 30 seconds later. Anthony Williams (24:43.03) and Kevin Salvano (25:02.90) rounded out the Irish in the top-100. There were 232 total participants in the men’s 8K race, of which Zach Kreft (26:06.40) and Tyler Keslin (26:36.80) also ran.
Kreft, a freshman whose hometown is Sunbury, was a standout at Buckeye Valley High School.
Claudia Magnussen led the women in the Gray 6K, finishing 10th overall with a time of 21:51.20. Anna Fischer was next across the line for the Irish, finishing the 6K in 22:29.32, followed by Katie Rose Blachowicz, who crossed in 22:48.88. Only .05 seconds separated Kellie Reagan (22:59.17) and MaryClare Leonard (22:59.22) who finished 64th and 65th, respectively.
The final race of the day included four Irish men competing in the Gray 8K. Vincent Zona finished first for Notre Dame in the event, with a time of 25:12.95 for 14th overall. Bradley Wattleworth was not far behind, crossing the line in 25:18.81 for an 18th place finish. Seconds later, Kevin Pulliam finished, recording a time of 25:23.73. Brian Griffith concluded the day for the Irish, finishing the 8K race in 25:59.88 for 38th overall.
Men’s White 8K Finishing Times: Yared Nuguse, 24:03.70 (13th); Andrew Alexander, 24:14.40 (23rd); Danny Kilrea, 24:26.61 (36th); Anthony Williams, 24:43.03 (55th); Kevin Salvano, 25:02.90 (93rd); Zach Kreft, 26:06.40 (182nd); Tyler Keslin, 26:36.80 (209th).