April 1, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – One week after the sprinters on the Notre Dame track & field teams accounted for seven NCAA Mideast Regional qualifications, the Irish men’s and women’s distance crews took center stage, rolling up their own “lucky seven” regional berths during weekend action at the Stanford Invitational (Stanford, Calif.) and Purdue’s Mike Poehlein Invitational (West Lafayette, Ind.). Notre Dame harriers also posted 18 new BIG EAST Championship qualifying marks on the weekend, while four Irish athletes cracked the Top 10 on the school’s all-time lists in their respective events.
Most of Notre Dame’s success came at the Stanford Invitational, led by junior Jake Watson (Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater Area), who finished fifth in the top section of the 1,500 meters with a Mideast Regional and BIG EAST qualifying time of 3:45.25, shaving more than four seconds off his personal best. The Irish veteran is a two-time regional qualifier in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (2005, 2006), but this weekend’s effort resulted in his first-ever bid at 1,500 meters. Watson added a second conference qualifier in the 10,000 meters with a time of 30:33.90 in his first race at that distance.
Sophomore Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah/Judge Memorial) turned in a solid debut to his 2007 outdoor season, qualifying for the regional and conference meets in the 5,000 meters with a personal-best time of 13:48.53, good for the fifth-fastest mark in school history. Smyth was fifth in the top heat of the event at Stanford, and also was the second-quickest collegian in the field, on the way to his first career regional berth.
Two other Irish men qualified for the Mideast Regional (as well as the BIG EAST Championship) during the Stanford Invitational. Junior John Cavanaugh (Granger, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) met the regional standard in the 800 meters (personal-best 1:50.26), while senior Todd Ptacek (Benton Harbor, Mich./Lake Michigan Catholic) did the same in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a personal-best time of 8:57.87. It’s the third consecutive year that Ptacek has qualified for regionals in the steeplechase, while Cavanaugh now is in line to make his second straight trip to the Mideast meet.
Not to be outdone, the Notre Dame women had three regional qualifiers, led by freshman Lindsey Ferguson (Greenfield Center, N.Y./Saratoga Springs), who posted the second-fastest time in school history during the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Stanford Invitational (10:45.41). Ferguson picks up her first regional bid, while positioning herself to eventually make a charge at Katie DeRusso’s school record in the event (10:41.49 at the 2005 NCAA Mideast Regional).
Senior All-American Molly Huddle (Elmira, N.Y./Notre Dame) easily worked her way into the national conversation at 5,000 meters, finishing third in the top heat at Stanford (15:50.53) and logging the No. 7 time in school history in the process. Huddle is a three-time Mideast Regional champion at 5,000 meters (2003, 2004, 2006) and has gone on to place in the top four at the NCAA Outdoor Championship during each of her previous three appearances, including a runner-up finish last year.
In that same 5,000-meter race at Stanford, senior Amy Kohlmeier (Sarnia, Ontario/St. Patrick’s) reached the Mideast Regional minimum with a time of 16:51.26, qualifying for regional competition in that event for the second consecutive year. Kohlmeier was not able to participate in the 2006 Mideast Regional due to injury.
Besides the above-listed athletes, the other Notre Dame men’s runners who booked spots in the BIG EAST Championship at the Stanford Invitational were: freshmen Cameron Eckert (Markle, Ind./Norwell), Jim Notwell (Upper Arlington, Ohio/Upper Arlington) and Blake Choplin (Kansas City, Mo./Oak Park) in the 800 meters, junior Brett Adams (Davenport, Iowa/Assumption) in the 1,500 meters, and junior Mike Popejoy (Wheaton, Ill./Warrenville South) in the 10,000 meters. Additional Irish women’s runners who qualified for the conference meet this weekend were: senior Brianne Schmidt (Miles City, Mont./Custer County District) in the 800 and 1,500 meters, senior Katie DeRusso (Fairport, N.Y./Fairport) in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, sophomores Heidi Rocha (Palmdale, Calif./Paraclete) and Becca Bauman (Grand Rapids, Mich./Catholic Central) in the 5,000 meters, and sophomore Nicole Yergler (Coto de Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita) in the 400-meter hurdles. All but Yergler competed at the Stanford Invitational, while Yergler’s time occurred at the Mike Poehlein Invitational.
The Purdue meet also saw the Notre Dame women collect four event victories, with junior Brienne Davis (Grand Prairie, Texas/South Grand Prairie) taking the crowns in the 100 meters (12.34) and 200 meters (25.06). Sophomore Mary Saxer (Lancaster, N.Y./Central) added top honors in the long jump (5.66 meters/18-7), while freshman Jaclyn Espinoza (Keizer, Ore./Regis) won the discus throw with the fourth-longest heave in school history (47.38m/155-5).
The Notre Dame track & field teams will be back in action Saturday, April 7 at the Indiana Relays in Bloomington, Ind.
— ND —