Junior Sadie Darnell finished third overall, her third-consecutive finish within the top-three.
Oct. 4, 2013
By Tyler Wooten
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Saluki cross country competed at the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday, where the women brought home yet another women's 5K title and the men finished 16th in a field comprised of eight national top-25 squads.
The Saluki women trudged through a messy golf course and intense humidity on Notre Dame's campus after a short but significant rainfall just before the race began. Southern was paced by a dominant top-five en route to victory -- all of whom finished in the top-20 and three of whom finished in the top-ten.
Sadie Darnell continued her excellent junior campaign with a third-place finish at 17:33.3. After posting top-two finishes in her first two meets, Darnell is averaging a finish of 2.0 with a little less than a month before the Missouri Valley Conference championship.
"Sadie has really stepped up to be a consistent leader for us," said head coach Matt Sparks. "That's what any sport is all about: you just need to be consistent and have a lot of confidence in what you do. Her confidence has continued to build, as has the confidence of the team I think," Sparks said.
Sophomore Kristen Levi finished right behind Darnell and posted her second straight fourth place finish. Levi posted a personal best 5K time of 17:41.0 in the sloppy conditions and beat her previous best by over three seconds. Levi averaged a finish of 25.3 in seven meets in 2012, and through three in 2013 she stands at 3.7.
"I think the same of Kristen Levi," Sparks said. "To see her run where she did, I think her confidence continues to grow as well heading into the heart of our schedule."
Junior Kelley Gallagher also finished with honors in 10th place. Gallagher clocked in at 17:50.5, her second-best time in 2013 behind her win at the Saluki Invitational on Sept. 21. Gallagher, who finished 15th at the MVC Championships in 2012, has not finished outside the top-ten in 2013.
The 5K win marks the third consecutive victory for the Saluki women -- the most in a single season since 2008 and the most consecutive meet wins to start a season for the women under head coach Matt Sparks' tenure.
"For the women, this is the first true step toward the most competitive part of our season," Sparks said. "To compete against Loyola and (Division II No. 1 school) Grand Valley State as well as we did gives us a lot of confidence going into the conference championship next month."
The Saluki men finished 16th out of 27 teams -- eight of which are nationally ranked within the top-25 and two of which are ranked in the top-ten (No. 7 Tulsa, No. 9 Princeton). Southern beat out Big Ten members Michigan and Ohio State and MVC foes Indiana State and Loyola.
Junior Nick Schrader was the top finisher for Southern at 51st place and a time of 25:15.4. Also contributing to SIU's team score were Brian Dixon (54th, 25:16.9), Oscar Medina (71st, 25:28.5), Zach Dahleen (89th, 25:41.1) and Juan Carrera (145th, 26:17.7).
"Nick was the big story of the day for us," Sparks said. "We feel Brian and Zach can step up on any given day, but for Nick to do it today is a huge step forward for us. Coming off his injury, we weren't sure what would happen if we put him in a high-pressure situation, so it's an ease off my mind and a good sign for us heading into conference that he can be a championship caliber runner for us."
Southern has less than one month before the MVC Championships on Nov. 2, and Sparks feels upbeat about both of his squads as the date approaches.
"We feel we have a lot of confidence on both sides after this meet with such good competition," Sparks said. "We still have some work to do, though. Zach struggled a bit today, but we know he'll be there with Brian and Nick. Kelley, Sadie and Mobola can all run better than their times today, too, so we have a lot to feel good about going forward."
Women's Gold 5K (1st of 26):
3. Sadie Darnell - 17:33.3
4. Kristen Levi - 17:41.0
10. Kelley Gallagher - 17:50.5
17. Mobola Rotibi - 18:11.7
18. Lacey Gibson - 18:13.5
29. Tori Parry - 18:25.7
50. Krista Menghini - 18:45.5
87. Eileen Schweiss - 19:12.6
142. Allison Gallo - 19:50.2
160. Melissa McDonald - 20:03.5