Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 48 of 55 SEPT. 19, 2020 49 ND SPORTS BY TODD D. BURLAGE T he accomplishment list of cross country and distance track star Yared Nuguse during his first two and half seasons at Notre Dame were already enough to fill almost two full pages here — with plenty more to add — until COVID-19 this spring interrupted his quest to become one of the most decorated athletes in pro- gram history. During his career so far at Notre Dame, Nuguse — now a senior — has won multiple ACC titles. He was part of Notre Dame's 2019 indoor na- tional championship distance med- ley relay team. He claimed the 2019 outdoor individual title in the 1,500 meters, and he was ready for much more in 2020 before the 2019-20 in- door postseason and the entire 2020 outdoor season were shut down. Provided no chance to defend ei- ther of those national titles, Nuguse admits to tremendous relief, some anxiousness and much excitement in anticipation of opening the 2020 cross country season next weekend — well, to a point. With the 2020 NCAA Cross Coun- try Championships already canceled because of coronavirus, the primary goal this season for Nuguse and his Irish teammates is to claim an ACC ti- tle — a meet Notre Dame won in 2018 for the first time in program history. Nuguse concedes the prestige of winning a conference title doesn't line up with winning a national championship — and with this deep team, Notre Dame had a shot — but something is better than nothing. "It's been like six or seven months since I last raced," he said. "I'm get- ting antsy about racing again this season, even if the goal is just for an ACC title." According to the recently released ACC preseason coaches' poll, Notre Dame is picked to win the 2020 con- ference championship and dethrone reigning champions Syracuse, a pow- erhouse program that has won six of the last seven conference titles, save for Notre Dame's intrusion two years ago. "I am beyond excited," Nuguse said. "Just to finally get to compete means everything." With a NCAA ruling that provides all spring and now all fall student- athletes an extra year of eligibility, Nuguse finds himself facing an unex- pected and difficult decision. The career dream for Nuguse re- mains dentistry. But his monumen- tal track success now also provides an opportunity to run professionally. Beyond that, perhaps competing and studying another year at Notre Dame as a graduate student is the best option. "That original decision after gradu- ation was already hard enough," Nu- guse explained. "But now that I had all of these track seasons taken away from me, it seems a lot more enticing to come back for that fifth year, just to see what I can do." Future aside, what Nuguse has al- ready accomplished at Notre Dame needs to be celebrated (Nuguse was named by Blue & Gold Illustrated as its 2018-19 Male Athlete of the Year). "I'm still going to be mulling my decision over for the next couple of months," Nuguse said, "figuring out what I really want out of my college experience and what I want out of my future." "What Yared has done here has been pretty special from an indi- vidual standpoint, but I think more so from a team standpoint," added Sean Carlson, Notre Dame head men's cross country coach. "He's helped change the culture of how we do things and how the program is viewed." And if Nuguse decides to move on? "My time at Notre Dame has meant the world to me, and COVID has made me realize how much more it truly meant." Nuguse said in retro- spect. "I knew this time was going to come, and I'm not going to have this anymore. "I'm going to really miss my team and every friendship I have made here. The whole school in general is always going to have a special place in my heart." ✦ Yared Nuguse Celebrates Resuming A Standout Distance Career Nuguse helped Notre Dame win its first-ever ACC cross country championship in 2018, a feat the Irish have been predicted to achieve again in 2020. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS IRISH ROUNDUP Predictions from ACC preseason polls MEN'S CROSS COUNTRY Notre Dame is picked to win the ACC, while perennial cross country power and defending champion Syracuse was chosen second … The first meet is the Irish Classic Sept. 19 and the ACC Championships will take place Oct. 30. WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY The Fighting Irish are picked to finish third in the ACC, and NC State is predicted to win the conference title … The first meet is the Irish Classic Sept. 19 and the ACC Championships will take place Oct. 30. MEN'S SOCCER Notre Dame is picked to finish sixth out of six teams in the North Division, with Virginia tabbed to win the North and Clemson projected to win the South and the league championship … Irish junior forward Jack Lynn was named to the 2020 ACC Preseason Watch List … The Irish open at home versus Kentucky Sept. 17 and the ACC Tournament will be Nov. 10-15. WOMEN'S SOCCER The Fighting Irish are picked to finish sixth in the 13-team league (no divisions), while North Carolina is predicted to win the title … Notre Dame opens the season at Florida State Sept. 17 and the ACC Tournament is Nov. 10-15. VOLLEYBALL Notre Dame is picked to finish fourth in the ACC, and Pitt is predicted to win the league title (their is no postseason tournament) … Ju- niors Charley Niego, an outside hitter, and Zoe Nunez, a setter, were both named to the 2020 Preseason All-ACC Team … The Irish haven't released their 2020 schedule yet. — Todd D. Burlage

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