Irish cross-country teams will take part in the Joe Piane Invitational
The Irish men’s and women’s cross country teams will return this Friday for the Joe Piane Invitational, their biggest home meeting of the season. The Irish have taken part in a few smaller competitions this year, but Friday’s competition will be the first larger competition with high-caliber competition.
Due to the competitiveness of the invite, head coach Matt Sparks faces the majority of his top runners on Friday. The only notable runner who won’t be running is second Josh Methner, who Sparks says will make his debut in a few weeks.
“[Methner]had a bit of a slow start to the season,” Sparks said. “He just needs a few more weeks, and we’ll see him make his Wisconsin debut. With him out, it will force other guys to step in as well.
The men will be looking to replace former All-Americans Yared Nuguse, Dylan Jacobs and Danny Kilrea, who all graduated last year. Sparks hopes a leader will emerge on Friday.
“We’ve got a lot of talent behind them, but we have to figure out who’s going to emerge as the race leader,” Sparks said.
Sparks mentioned three men he expects to come in on Friday.
“[Sophomore] Carter Solomon and [junior] Tom Seitzer are two guys who competed well last spring for us and looked good in practice and were great leaders in practice. These are guys we would love to see race for us,” Sparks said. “[Senior] Matthew Carmody is a veteran of the team who has previously competed nationally for us. We are confident he can find his way back to the front of the group.
Sparks is also looking forward to seeing rookie Izaiah Steury race this weekend.
“We have confidence in Izaiah, who will be the only freshman running in uniform this weekend on either side,” Sparks said. “He’s had a great first month of training so we’re going to take the redshirt off him. I expect him to be another one of those guys to establish himself as a leader.
Steury is part of an Irish recruiting class that is arguably the best in the country. Sparks mentioned rookie Ethan Coleman, who won’t race Friday, as another runner with potential.
“Ethan had a great pre-season training and could potentially earn a spot on the roster and compete for us this year,” Sparks said. “[Steury and him] are really the two that really stepped up. They both come from a very good background in high school.
Sparks said he understands that despite the large recruiting class of freshmen, it could take a while for those recruits to pay dividends.
“We have arguably the best freshman recruiting class in the country, but it takes a year or two to see that recruiting class happen with the exception of Izaiah, who is ready to put on his uniform right now and lead us into battle,” Sparks said.
On the men’s side, there will be plenty of competition for the 14th-ranked Irish with Butler at 24th, Alabama at 25th and Michigan at 27th in competition.
On the women’s side, the Irish are led by two veteran riders, graduate student Maddy Denner and junior Olivia Markezich. Sparks hopes the women’s team can establish depth behind their two stars.
“We have a very experienced group led by two All-American leaders in Maddy Denner and Olivia Markezich,” Sparks said. “We’re just looking to establish our depth in our top seven. We’re going to lead a strong group of five women, but we don’t know how strong we’ll be in the six-seven spots. We hope to find more depth on the female side of the roster.
The Irish, eighth in the standings, will face a very difficult test on Friday. Defending national champions and top-ranked North Carolina State, third-ranked New Mexico and tenth-ranked Alabama all compete.
Sparks said he wants his two teams to compete at the elite level this season.
“There has been a good group of guys and women who have trained very well this fall, but when it comes time to compete at the elite level, it will be the first time this year that either team has elite-level competition,” Sparks said. “It will be exciting to see who takes on leadership responsibilities for both genders.”
Sparks said he plans to use Friday’s game as another building block for the playoffs, which begin in four weeks with the ACC championships.
“It’s great to have a playoff home game,” Sparks said. “September is a very comfortable month for us in terms of training and preparation for the playoffs. It’s really our first competitive opportunity. It’s a bit of a pre-test for the playoffs to see where we stand. are today.
The Irish will have one more meeting between Friday’s race and the conference meeting.
“Each meeting somehow builds on the previous one, and each meeting becomes a bit more competitive. This is the first meeting with elite teams that come to our home course to race. And then we’ll be heading to Wisconsin in a few weeks in a bit more elite platoon compared to Joe Piane’s invitation,” Sparks said.
The women’s 5000m race will start at the Burke Golf Course at 10.30am. The men’s 5-mile race follows at 11:15 a.m.
Contact Nate Moller at firstname.lastname@example.org.