March 27, 2014
By Staci Gasser
One year left. One goal left.
Former Arizona State runner and Notre Dame graduate student Nick Happe was named an All-American after the Track and Field Indoor NCAA Championship when he ran the final 1600-meter leg of the Distance Medley Relay.
It has been a goal of his for a long time.
“The feeling is hard to describe,” Happe says. “I’ve come somewhat close in the last few years-I made Indoor Nationals the previous two years but I wasn’t able to obtain First-Team All-American, I was second team.
“It is pretty satisfying.”
He, along with three of his Irish teammates, placed fourth in the event in 9:41.90. The same four runners broke the Notre Dame record just a few weeks before on their home track with a time of 9:29.43 at the Alex Wilson Invitational.
“I had the extra year left to try to become an All-American in the distance medley relay, and Notre Dame has a great group of mid-distance runners,” he says when asked about why he came to Notre Dame.
The St. Louis native is in his first year at Notre Dame’s law school after a graduating from Arizona State University. With a successful running career as a Sun Devil and an extra year of eligibility due to red-shirting his freshman season, Happe has taken full advantage of his fifth year.
He won the 5,000 meter race during the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championship, ending the first day on a high note for the Fighting Irish.
“It was a really cool atmosphere at the ACC Championship because the whole team cares and striving for a team title,” he recalls. “Knowing I was contributing in helping the team win a title was a really cool experience.”
Happe had to adjust most aspects of the way he approached the sport when he switched his maroon and yellow jersey for a blue and gold one. One was running with a team twice the size. Another was his training style.
“At Arizona State, we ran high mileage and did the same workout for four years, so I was very comfortable with what I was doing. Then coming here to Notre Dame, most of the guys don’t run as high of mileage but compliment that with running faster on their runs,” Happe explains. “The workouts are also more demanding. So that was definitely a change, just having to switch up what I was used to doing.
“It was hard to really gage where my fitness level was-it took me a while to feel how my body was responding to the new workouts and be a part of bigger family here at Notre Dame.”
Happe was named the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year twice in his senior season (for cross-country and track and field) at Arizona State. He was the only individual in school history to post top-five marks indoors in the mile, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters. He holds the school record in the mile (3:58.73) and 3,000 meters (7:52.18) and was a two-time second team All-American in indoor track and a two-time All-West Region runner in cross-country.
He was also an Academic All-Pac-12 first team member three times in cross country and twice in track and field, all while maintaining a 4.08 GPA in accountancy as a member of Barrett, The Honors College.
Although he said that he enjoys just running the sport and doesn’t pay too much attention to his impressive list of accomplishments, Happe is proudest of being named the Scholar Athlete of the Year, an award that shows he excelled the most in the classroom while also competing at the highest level of the PAC-12 Conference Championship.
“All-American is certainly above that, but that honor shows that I’m not only a good athlete, but I’m also good at academics, which is what the NCAA is about: developing student-athletes. That it’s not just about athletics, but about academics as well,” he says.
Now with an All-American title under his name, Happe has new goals. He wants a new personal record in the 5,000-meter run, help the team win the Outdoor Track and Field ACC Championship, compete in the national meet and become a First-Team All American in Outdoor Nationals.
And the end of his collegiate career may not be the last line he crosses.
“Unfortunately professional long-distance running isn’t a very lucrative sport. Being in South Bend for the next two years for law school doesn’t really allow me the time to go train for the next level,” he says. “But I think I’d like to try to be involved and train with the team as much as I can, maybe train for the Olympic Trials and have that be my last goal before giving up the sport.”