The University of Notre Dame's men's cross country and track and field program is on a recruiting roll.
Over the past three seasons, the Fighting Irish's strategy of recruiting top-level American prep distance athletes has already yielded them some major NCAA Championship returns, including a national indoor DMR title and runner-up finish in back-to-back years, a 1,500 meter individual outdoor national title, and a freshman All-American finish in cross country from 2018.
The past three recruiting classes have included national standouts like Yared Nuguse, Carter Cheeseman, Jake Renfree, Danny Kilrea, Zach Kreft and 2018 Foot Locker Nationals champ Dylan Jacobs.
This recruiting season, the Fighting Irish, who are led by men's cross country head coach and track and field assistant Sean Carlson, have already secured three more national talents: Robbie Cozean, Carter Solomon and Josh Methner.
Nuguse, arguably the program's top recruit over that span, was signed in 2017 out of Louisville duPont Manual High School and has proceeded earn his fair share of accolades, including that individual national title from this past spring (3:41.39), as well as that national indoor DMR title, where he was the anchor on a crazy last leg for the Irish.
The program's most recent success began in October with the commitment of Cozean, the Xavier (CT) High School senior. The Connecticut standout has been stellar this fall, and PR'd for the third time this cross country season on Saturday in winning the CIAC Divisional L Championships in 15:30. Previously, he's won a pair of state
championships, both indoor and outdoor in the 3,200m, and landed a US No. 15 outdoor
performance in the event in 8:54.78. He went on to win New Balance Nationals Outdoor in
the 5,000m this past spring, posting a time of 14:26.18, which was his first US No. 1.
Then came Solomon.The Plymouth (MI) High School senior placed fourth at last year's Foot Locker National Championships before continuing to improve in the spring, dropping 15 seconds year-over-year in the 3,200m (9:08.96). This fall, he's continued to drop his times in XC,
with a 17-second improvement tin the 5K for a US No. 19 performance of 14:42.70.
But perhaps the program's top signee was Methner, whose range--like Nuguse--might ultimately place him in a variety of events at the NCAA level. The
Illinois distance runner finished sixth at Foot Locker Nationals in 2018 and also holds personal bests of
3:58.34 (1,500m), 4:15.29 (Mile) and 9:02.54 (3,200m).
Each senior is dominant in their disciplines within their states. But at Notre Dame, they won't just be joining a
nationally recognized program, but one that allows them to make noticeable
Before junior Nuguse
became a two-time national champion, he finished his high school career as a three-time
Kentucky Class AAA champion. In his freshman year with the Fighting Irish, Nuguse improved
by 12 seconds in the indoor mile, with a best of 4:02.44, which ultimately led to a national championship in the 1,500m in 2019. He turned his high school 1,600m PR of 4:12.10 into a sub-4 mile conversion and 1,500m best of 3:38.32 (from the Bryan Clay Invitational) in just two years.
Then there's sophomore Kilrea, who was the
first true freshman to cross the finish line at the 2018 NCAA Cross Country
Championships in a new 10,000m best by over 80 seconds--which earned him All-American
During that season, the sophomore also dropped 40 seconds from his 5K best to
14:11.18. And on the track, he made more than a 10-second improvement (8:21.88)
from his high school indoor 3K (8:33.42).
As the Lyons Township graduate focused
on the 10K outdoors, he ran a PR of 28:55.25 to qualify for the NCAA East
Preliminary. This past spring, following his NCAA performances, Kilrea ended his track and field debut as a Pan-American U20 Champion at 10K.
There's no reason to think we won't see quick improvements from this past year's signees Renfree and Cheeseman soon enough, and down the line with athletes like Solomon, Cozean and Methner.
And the new members
of the Fighting Irish will have opportunities to run on a big collegiate stage early on.
In 2018, Nuguse anchored Notre Dame to runner-up
in the DMR at indoor nationals. The following year, the national championship DMR
lineup consisted of Nuguse and two other underclassmen: Jacobs and Sam Voelz.
Jacobs, who redshirted that cross country season, built off his national title by qualifying for the NCAA East preliminary in the 1,500m with a time of 3:46.54.
So all eyes will be on Notre Dame as it tries to win its second consecutive ACC Cross Country
Championship this fall.
Beyond that, however, a burgeoning NCAA cross country and track and field contender could be emerging.