Senior Kurt Benninger is the fourth Notre Dame runner to qualify for the NCAA finals in his event, finishing 12th in the 1,500-meter semifinals (season-best 3:43.34) at the NCAA Outdoor Track &amp; Field Championships Thursday night in Sacramento, Calif. <i>(photo by Stephen Slade/BIG EAST Conference)</i>

Irish Head West For NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

June 6, 2006


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Nearly 160 years after settlers poured into California in search of gold, the Notre Dame track & field teams will go looking for their own “gold rush” when they land in Sacramento, Calif., for the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will take place Wednesday through Sunday at Hornet Stadium inside the A.G. Spanos Sports Complex on the Sacramento State University campus. Six Irish athletes — three men and three women — will compete in this week’s national meet, which will feature a landmark amount of live television coverage (5.5 hours) during the course of the four-day meet (Friday 8-11 p.m. ET on CSTV; Saturday 3:30-6 p.m. ET on CBS). In addition, extensive real-time updates of each event (including photos, podcasts and blogs) will be provided on the Internet through the Trackshark web site.

Senior All-Americans Molly Huddle (Elmira, N.Y./Notre Dame) and Stephanie Madia (Wexford, Pa./North Allegheny) will pace the Notre Dame women’s track & field squad, which comes into the NCAA Championships tied for 22nd in the country according to the latest Trackwire poll, which gauges a team’s potential points at the NCAA meet. Both Huddle and Madia will run in the 5,000 meters, with Huddle — the Great Lakes District Athlete of the Year and BIG EAST Most Outstanding Track Performer — as the No. 1 seed (15:40.41) and Madia the third seed (15:47.59) in the event, and each looking to become Notre Dame’s first-ever NCAA women’s track & field champion. Senior Emily Loomis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) is the third Irish female competing this week, taking part in the high jump as the No. 19 seed (1.80 meters/5-10.75).

On the men’s side, a pair of juniors lead the way, as Thomas Chamney (Tipperary, Ireland/St. Columba’s) and Kurt Benninger (Chepstow, Ontario/Walkerton D.S.S.) have high hopes for All-America citations. Chamney has emerged as a legitimate national title contender at 800 meters, having earned All-America honors during the indoor season (sixth place at the NCAA meet) and winning the NCAA Mideast Regional title last week in Knoxville, Tenn., to garner the 15th seed (1:48.47) for this week’s competition. Meanwhile, Benninger has collected three All-America certificates during indoor competition, but is seeking his first outdoor plaque as he runs in the 5,000 meters. Seeded 11th in the field, he is the only one of the six Notre Dame athletes to receive an at-large berth to the NCAA meet (the others garnered automatic bids through regional performances), based upon his season-best time of 13:55.54 at the Oregon Invitational on April 21. Senior Tim Moore (Novi, Mich./Novi) rounds out the Notre Dame men’s contingent as he races in the 10,000 meters, where he also is seeded 11th (28.47.99).

The Irish will be fielding athletes in the NCAA men’s competition for the 12th consecutive year and 52nd time overall, having posted five top-five finishes including runner-up placements in 1921 (the first year of the championship) and 1944 (a program-best 43 points), as well as a third-place showing in 1922. This will be the 13th consecutive year Notre Dame has sent female athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Championships, with its best finish in that competition being a tie for 17th place (13 points) in 1999.

— ND —

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR NOTRE DAME ATHLETES (all times Eastern; subtract three hours for Pacific)
Wednesday, June 7

• 6:55 p.m — Men’s 800-meter first round (Thomas Chamney)
• 10 p.m — Women’s high jump qualifying (Emily Loomis)
• 10:50 p.m — Women’s 5,000-meter semifinals (Molly Huddle / Stephanie Madia)
• 11:30 p.m — Men’s 5,000-meter semifinals (Kurt Benninger)
Thursday, June 8
• 8:05 p.m — Men’s 800-meter semifinals (Thomas Chamney)
• 11 p.m — Men’s 10,000-meter final (Tim Moore)
Friday, June 9 (televised live on CSTV from 8-10 p.m.)
• 6:45 p.m — Women’s high jump final (Emily Loomis)
• 10 p.m — Women’s 5,000-meter final (Molly Huddle / Stephanie Madia)
• 10:30 p.m — Men’s 5,000-meter final (Kurt Benninger)
Saturday, June 10 (televised live on CBS from 3:30-6 p.m.)
• 3:15 p.m — Men’s 800-meter final (Thomas Chamney)