Senior Chris Giesting ran just his second collegiate 600 meter race on Saturday at the Notre Dame Invitational, but the senior bested the 18-year-old school record anyway by nearly two seconds.

Irish Extra: Giesting Sets the Pace

Jan. 25, 2015

Chris Giesting walked out onto the Meyo Field track at the University of Notre Dame’s Loftus Sports Center planning on getting a change of pace from his training for the 400 meters.

The Fighting Irish senior lined up to run the 600 meters in the Notre Dame Invitational on Saturday, only as a tune-up for running the 400 in the prestigious Razorback Invitational next week.

By the time Giesting walked off the Meyo track Saturday his pace turned out to be the best in Fighting Irish history and, for a time, the best in the nation – collegiate or otherwise.

Giesting shattered a Notre Dame record of 1:18.65 set in 1997 by Jeff Hojnacki with a 1:16.70. His national best only lasted a few hours, as Brooks Beast Track Club middle-distance runner Casimir Loxsom ran a 1:15.58 later in the day in Albuquerque to set an American record in the indoor 600 meters. Giesting is currently in possession of the nation’s best collegiate mark.

“There was good competition, which helps me a ton,” Giesting said. “I wasn’t the only one going after it. It was just a fun day. I wasn’t expecting it.”

Notre Dame placed fifth in the meet with 57 points. Giesting’s victory was one of two blue ribbons for the Irish. The women placed second in the five-team meet with 100 points and also had two first-place winners.

“I wasn’t really preparing for it, because I train for the 400,” said Giesting. “Coach (Alan Turner) just said, ‘Run as fast as you can, for as long as you can.’ So if I die, I die, if I don’t ââ’¬¦ it was like, ‘Let’s see how fit you are, let’s see how the training is going.’

“So I go out pretty hard the first 400. I think it was 47 high, 48 low. That’s where I wanted to be. That’s about my pace. Then I just held on for dear life. I was lucky to see that time come up. I wasn’t really expecting that at all. I had run 1:19 before that. I was like, OK, I might drop a half a second. I did not expect to get under two seconds on it.”

Giesting ran the 600 only once as a freshman and then once as a sophomore. He didn’t run it at all last season.

A former Indiana high school state champion, Giesting still holds the state record in the 400 at 46.89. The Batesville native has flourished in his Irish career. He placed seventh in the NCAA Indoor Championship meet last season in the 400 in 46.10 and also was on Notre Dame’s 4×400 relay team that earned ninth at the NCAA Outdoor Championship in 3:05.77.

Although Giesting said the 600 can be a hurtful race for a sprinter because of the distance, he thought it would be a good way to prepare for the 400 at next week’s power-packed Razorback Invitational in Arkansas.

“It’s really, really good to get that caliber of a 600 in, knowing I can hang on a little longer. I’m excited. I think I’m in shape. I think I can hang with the best of them there.”

Turner envisioned Giesting setting a school record in the 600. He didn’t foresee a blistering national pace and a nearly three-second victory over his nearest rival, Jason Ervin of Eastern Michigan.

“The goal today was to break the school record, and I knew he could do it,” Turner said of Giesting. “I didn’t think he was going to exceed it by the margin he did. He’s really ahead of where I thought he would be. I thought he could run a high 1:17. I didn’t think he could break 1:17, but every time I doubt him he always exceeds my expectations. He has the school record in the indoor 400, the 500 and now the 600. Next week at Arkansas, he’s going to go for the 200, and he’s going to try to beat his school record in the 400.”

According to Turner, Giesting possesses an outstanding combination of skills that serve a long sprinter well. Giesting is 6-foot-4, giving him a long stride, but he can unleash a short sprinter’s explosive speed. Mix in the endurance of a middle-distance runner and a fierce competitive drive–and you have Giesting.

“Chris is a special guy,” Turner said. “He’s probably the most complete sprinter in school history. About the only thing he can’t do well is run the 100 meters or the 60 meters. But he can still hold his own with a running start when he’s on a 4×100 relay. He’s a once-in-a-generation sprinter.”

Giesting is an Academic All-American in addition to earning All-America status on the track. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year in both indoor and outdoor track in 2013-14.

A voracious reader, Giesting has turned himself into a student of the sport at Notre Dame.

“I read a lot of articles,” Giesting said. “Everyone is always writing something. Mainly, it’s 800 runners on up. They do a lot of online blogs. I like to read any of the books that give technique styles. I’m trying to read what training is new, what diet is new, anything that helps you advance times. Coach Turner shares a lot of articles for me to read. I’m just trying to learn. As generations keep getting faster and faster, something is developing. If I can be with it, it will help me.”

As Giesting bears down for a potential national championship challenge in the 400, he faces some interesting post-collegiate questions about his route to a bid for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. He plans to continue running the 400, but running the 800 isn’t out of the question.

“Since I’ve come to Notre Dame, I’ve gotten a different build for a 400 runner,” Giesting said. “Most 400 runners are probably a little shorter, a lot stronger than me. I have more of an 800 build. If you look at an 800 guy, you’d think I fit the bill.

“I’m told constantly by our 800 coach, ‘Just move up. You’ve got the endurance. Just move up.’ I’ve been thinking about it, post-collegiately. This doesn’t help my situation. I ran pretty well in the 600, and now I’m really unsure what I could do in the 800 if I put in the right amount of training. I’ll continue to talk to the coaches here and see what’s best.”

Giesting said Notre Dame’s resources have played a tremendous role in helping him foster Olympic ambitions.

“I think I had the right tools to be good, but every year I’ve improved under Coach Turner,” Giesting said. “Every year he’s teaching me something. There’s always something little, like acceleration phase, drive phase or how I finish a race. I’ve developed slowly each year, and it’s culminating all in my senior year, so I’m hoping I can run something crazy fast, soon.

“The resources at Notre Dame have helped me compete very much,” Giesting continued. “We have the top facilities. This is the largest indoor track in the country, which is better for me. I like a longer track. We’ve got one of the most amazing weight rooms, which helps me strength-wise. So I can run indoors in the winter when it’s freezing cold, and then I can go and lift well. We have a lot of top-notch rehabilitation equipment. All the right equipment, tools, people ââ’¬¦ it’s all here.

“Notre Dame is a great place to go, not only for academics, but it is also a place where if you put the effort in you can succeed just as well athletically.”

— by Curt Rallo, special correspondent