Senior Alexa Aragon

Fuel for the Chase

May 6, 2014

By Phoenix Harris ’14

Three weekends ago, the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships took place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was the first time the Fighting Irish competed in the event, but according to senior middle-distance runner Alexa Aragon, the label of conference “newcomer” was one of the team’s biggest motivations.

“This year is the first time we’ve been in the ACC, but we know Florida State always dominates. It was a positive to see that we could compete that closely with them,” she says.

Aragon and the women’s team took second place overall with 96 points, just 15 points behind the Florida State women’s team. She helped the Irish achieve such a close second by earning silver in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase (10:11.52). While Aragon and the team were happy to have done so well, she is quick to point out their desire to use the meet as a reason to push harder throughout the remainder of the season.

“Coming in and getting second was definitely a good introduction to the ACC,” she says. “But after the meet, everybody looked back on what points they could’ve earned. I thought, ‘If I could’ve gotten first in steeplechase or if I ran a better race in the 1,500m, maybe we would’ve been first.’ I see the meet as motivation to do better.”

Aragon used this motivation the following weekend when the Fighting Irish were competing at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. She raced in the women’s 1,500m run and came in sixth (4:26.82) – shaving over 10 seconds off the 1,500m time she ran at the ACCs.

Also placing at the Drake Relays was Aragon’s younger sister Danielle, a sophomore middle-distance runner. She came in fifth in the 1,500m (4:26.62).

Both Aragon athletes share a passion for middle-distance, but they’re not the first in their family to do so. They also aren’t the first to have lived out this passion on Notre Dame’s campus. Chuck Aragon, their father, was also an All-American on the cross-country and track and field teams for Notre Dame.

“My parents were runners-my whole family runs! My mom is a 10k and marathon runner, and she used to push us in the baby jogger,” Aragon laughs. “I kind of wanted to do my own thing, but then I came to Notre Dame and I really enjoyed my visit. In the end, part of my decision to run here had to do with how I grew up. Notre Dame is what I knew of college.”

Although Aragon has followed in her family’s footsteps with running and with joining the Fighting Irish, she has forged her own path when it comes to events. The steeplechase has become her area of expertise. In addition to the 1,500m, she occasionally aids the team in the women’s 4x800m. However, Aragon is quick to note that the 800m is her father’s and Danielle’s race.

“In high school, I could beat Danielle until I was a senior and she was a sophomore and had gained more experience in the 800m. Now that we’re in college, I feel like we’re on equal playing fields,” she says. “Every race that I watch her run I feel like I’m running it too and I enjoy having her beside me in workouts to push me. We help each other get better. There’s just something really special about running with your sister.””

Aragon takes the drive she gets from running with Danielle and channels it in the races they don’t compete in together – like the steeplechase. The event is just shy of two miles and has five barriers, one of which is followed by a water pit. Not only is it an extreme test of endurance but the mental strength it requires is almost matchless.

“It’s all about mindset,” she says. “Everyone who runs it gets to a point where they feel like they can’t jump over another barrier, but you have to! It basically comes down to which runners can hang on the longest.”

With a second place finish at that the ACC Outdoors, it is obvious that Aragon is one of those runners. And she continues to hang on and push through each meet as she finishes up her final outdoor season for the Fighting Irish.

“It’s a little crazy! Part of me knows its my senior year and wants to be here and spend time with my friends, but at the same time it’s one of my last opportunities to race,” Aragon says.

She is quick to admit that while she’s thankful she has such a promising remainder of the season ahead of her, but finds it hard not to think of each of the next collegiate meets being among her last.

“I’m thankful for the opportunities and I’m trying really hard to make sure I’m present wherever I am. When I’m on campus I try to be present on campus. When I’m on the track I’m trying to be present there,” she says. “I’m not sure about running in the future. I think it’ll depend a lot on how I do this season. If I improve on my steeplechase time I’ll probably consider running a few more races after the NCAA Outdoor Championships, but it’s not one of those things I can decide on right now. I have to see how it goes.”

The unpredictability of each race is added fuel to Aragon’s efforts as she chases her goals for the rest of the season. Coupled with almost finishing first at the ACC Championships, knocking off tens of seconds off her time at the Drake Relays, and getting to compete her last races with her sister, there’s no doubt she’ll stay motivated until the end.

The Notre Dame track and field teams are sending partial squads to three different meets this weekend in hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Regionals later this month. For information and results from the meets, follow the team on Twitter @NDXCTF. Go IRISH!