Tuesday, August 6, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #17- Notre Dame

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Notre Dame
Head Coach: Tim Connelly (26th Season)
2012 National Finish- 15th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Alexa Aragon (Sr., 4:19 1500m, 9:33 Open 3k, 9:56 3k Steeple)
  • Gabby Gonzales (Jr., 16:48 5k, 33:56 10k)
  • Kelly Curran (Sr., 4:16 1500m, 9:47 Open 3k)
  • Dani Aragon (So., 2:06 800m, 4:18 1500m)
  • Molly Seidel (So., 16:05 5k, Foot Locker Champion '11)
  • Hannah Eckstein (Jr., D3 All-American XC, Indoor and Outdoor, 16:50 5k)
  • Meg Ryan (Sr., 9:39 Open 3k, 16:42 5k)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Taylor Driscoll (Fr., 3 X NXN Nats Finalist: 9th '12, 22nd '11, 35th '10, 10:42 3200m)

Season Preview

The further the countdown goes, the deeper and deeper these teams seem to get. At this point in the countdown, there is no team that has been previewed that is deeper than what Notre Dame has returning for them in 2013. A solid 15th place finish at NCAAs in 2012 is a good starting point for this team in terms of goals for this season and the sky is the limit. Granted they are placed 18th in these rankings, but are very capable of proving that wrong. 

Coach Connelly has masterfully developed these girls into outstanding cross country runners who are able to translate their track abilities into high quality harriers out on the course. Five of the seven girls from 2012 return for the Fighting Irish and that does not include some of their young talent Hannah Eckstein or Dani Aragon. 

There are so many quality girls on this roster that it is hard to know where to start, but the no. 1 returner from NCAAs and the Great Lakes Region is Kelly Curran. Curran is more proof that 1500m runners can be great cross country runners. Her speed matched with toughness provide a good combination for a low-stick and the no. 1 girl coming back from 2012. 

Gabby Gonzales has also been an extremely solid no. 3 for the Irish and should be fine stepping up into the no. 2 or no. 1 slot as the season progresses. Gonzales has the best 10k PR of the group and that should translate into a strong performance in 2013 especially towards the end of the season where endurance and base is so key. 

The rest of the athletes listed above are so interchangeable in where they could end up on team and in what they are all capable of doing. Molly Seidel might have the most upside after a very good track season in 2013 where she ran 16:05 for 5k. Seidel was the Foot Locker champion in 2011. 

The Aragon sisters (Alexa and Dani), though they run different events on the track, are seemingly pretty equal on the cross country course. Both of these runners are tough racers who at any given race could run out of their minds and be the reason behind an incredible day for the team.

Meg Ryan and Hannah Eckstein are quality pack runners that will provide consistency in their top seven. Having much experience, these two know what it takes to run at a high level. 

Taylor Driscoll, the lone key recruit on the team, is quite a catch for Coach Connelly. Driscoll has had incredible success at the high school level. If she can follow in the footsteps of high school phenom Molly Seidel, she will be quite the asset to the Irish down the road. 

Although the Great Lakes Region is as tough as ever, these women are as solid as they come and will be ready to make a run at a Regional title in November. With this in mind, Notre Dame should easily earn a trip to the Big Dance and look to improve upon this ranking and last years 15th place finish. 

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