Mary Saxer was named to the USTFCCCA Track and Field All-Academic Team.

Irish Men Hold Overnight Lead At BIG EAST Outdoor Track And Field Championships

May 3, 2008

VILLANOVA, Pa. – On the same day as the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby, this year’s BIG EAST Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships appear to have turned into a two-horse race. The Notre Dame men hold a 58-54 lead on Louisville through Saturday’s action, while the Louisville women have a 51-38 edge on the Irish heading into Sunday’s final day of competition on the Jumbo Elliott Track at Villanova Stadium in Villanova, Pa.

Junior Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah) capped off a solid day for the Notre Dame men’s squad, winning the 10,000-meter run in 29:14.76. It’s the first career BIG EAST outdoor title for Smyth, but his second conference crown of the year after he won the BIG EAST indoor 5,000-meter race back in February. Smyth also picked up his fourth career all-conference certificate on the track (two indoor, two outdoor), adding to the three all-BIG EAST citations he has earned in cross country. Freshman Dan Jackson (Ann Arbor, Mich.) also scored points for Notre Dame in the 10,000 meters, placing seventh in a time of 30.18.06.

Sophomore Brandon Drenon (Pearland, Texas) struck gold for the Irish in the discus, becoming the first Notre Dame athlete ever to win that event after a personal-best heave of 53.35 meters (175 feet). His previous top mark had been 52.37 meters (171 feet, 10 inches) at the Ole Miss Invitational back on April 12. It’s the first BIG EAST crown and first all-conference award for Drenon, who came close to adding points for the Irish in the shot put with a ninth-place showing (15.56m).

On the women’s side, junior Mary Saxer (Lancaster, N.Y.) took home her first BIG EAST pole vault title after clearing the bar at 4.00 meters (13 feet, 1.5 inches). Saxer’s top height also tied the meet record (originally set by Pittsburgh’s Marissa Dudek in 2006) and the school record, which she had previously established back on April 19 at the Long Beach State Invitational. Like Drenon, Saxer nearly scored points in two events, but finished ninth in the long jump (5.64m). Nevertheless, she collected her third career all-BIG EAST citation (first outdoors).

One of the other highlights for Notre Dame on Saturday came from sophomore Lindsey Ferguson (Greenfield Center, N.Y.), who smashed her own school record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase by nearly 12 seconds. Ferguson finished third in the event for the second consecutive BIG EAST outdoor meet in 10:29.63, after running a (then) school-record 10:41.33 in last year’s conference championship. It’s the third career all-BIG EAST honor for Ferguson (two outdoors, one indoors), to go along with her first career cross country all-conference plaque back in October.

Sophomore Jaclyn Espinoza (Keizer, Ore.) finished second in the women’s discus for the second consecutive year with a personal-best toss of 51.25 meters (168 feet, 2 inches), which also is third-best in school history and seventh-best in the NCAA Mideast Region this year. In addition, Espinoza garnered her second career all-conference certificate, and also contributed points to the Irish team total in the shot put, where she wound up eighth with a personal-best mark of 14.08 meters (46 feet, 2.5 inches).

Junior Alyissa Hasan (Williamsville, N.Y.) took runner-up honors in the heptathlon with 5,365 points, matching her second-place showing in the pentathlon during the BIG EAST Indoor Championships back in February. Hasan, who already has qualified for the NCAA Championships and posted an Olympic Trials “B” qualifying mark in the heptathlon (school-record 5,509 points), copped her second career all-BIG EAST citation after Saturday’s performance.

Freshman Justin Schneider (Atlanta, Ga.) took second in the decathlon with a personal-best total of 6,869 points, finishing a mere 65 points back of conference champion Nick Crosta of Rutgers. Schneider is the first Notre Dame male track & field athlete ever to claim all-BIG EAST honors in a multi-event competition (either indoors or outdoors), having added this weekend’s award to the runner-up showing he posted in the heptathlon at the BIG EAST indoor meet (where he finished just 36 points out of first place).

Junior Blair Majcina (Mokena, Ill.) placed second in the high jump at 2.07 meters (6 feet, 9.5 inches) after being one of five leapers to clear that height. Majcina was awarded runner-up honors after needing fewer attempts to clear lower heights than all of the other tied competitors except Cincinnati’s Brandon Fitch, who didn’t miss at his first four heights (Majcina needed two tries at 2.04m). Still, Majcina’s second-place showing matches the best-ever by a Notre Dame high jumper at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships (Quill Redwine in 2001) and gave Majcina his second career all-conference designation after a third-place outing at the 2006 BIG EAST indoor meet.

Senior Mike Schubert (Naperville, Ill.) was the other runner-up finisher for the Irish on Saturday, taking second in the shot put with a personal-best mark of 17.15 meters (56 feet, 3.25 inches), which he set on his final attempt of the day. Schubert tied the best outdoor shot put finish by a Notre Dame thrower at the BIG EAST meet (Mike Fleisch in 1997 and Derek Dyer in 2000) on the way to his first career all-conference plaque. Freshman Denes Veres (Ellwood City, Pa.) tacked on a third-place performance in the event (17.05 meters) to give the Irish their highest point total in the shot put since 2000, when Dyer and Matt Thompson went 2-3 in the event. Veres also earned his second career all-BIG EAST certificate on top of the one he collected for a second-place showing in the shot put at the BIG EAST indoor meet.

Other point scorers for Notre Dame on Saturday included: sophomore Eric Quick (Bakersfield, Calif.), who was sixth in the long jump (7.14m) and junior Anna Weber (Indianapolis, Ind.), who scored in both the discus (sixth place, personal-best 45.03m) and shot put (seventh place, 14.18m).

Both Notre Dame teams will return to the track Sunday for the final day of the 2008 BIG EAST Conference Outdoor Championships. The Irish men will be seeking their fifth BIG EAST outdoor title (and fourth in six years), while snaring at least one of the two conference track championships (indoor/outdoor) for the sixth consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Notre Dame women are aiming to defend their first-ever BIG EAST outdoor title that they won last year, adding to BIG EAST indoor crowns in 2002 and 2006.

— ND —

2008 BIG EAST Outdoor Track & Field Championships
May 2-3, 2008
Villanova, Pa. (Jumbo Elliott Track at Villanova Stadium)

TEAM STANDINGS (through 8 events)
Men: 1. NOTRE DAME 58
; 2. Louisville 54; 3. Connecticut 35; 4. Rutgers 34; 5. South Florida 30.
Women: 1. Louisville 51; 2. NOTRE DAME 38; 3. Syracuse 31; 4. South Florida 26; 5. Pittsburgh 24.

Men’s 10,000-meter run:
1. Patrick Smyth* 29:14.76; 7. Dan Jackson 30.18.06
Men’s discus: 1. Brandon Drenon* 53.35m; –. John Belcher FOUL
Men’s decathlon: 2. Justin Schneider* 6,869 points
Men’s high jump: 2. Blair Majcina* 2.07m
Men’s shot put: 2. Mike Schubert* 17.15m; 3. Denes Veres* 17.05m; 9. Brandon Drenon 15.56m
Men’s long jump: 6. Eric Quick 7.14m

Women’s pole vault: 1. Mary Saxer* 4.00m (ties BIG EAST meet/school records); –. Jessica Sullivan NH
Women’s heptathlon: 2. Alyissa Hasan* 5,365 points
Women’s discus: 2. Jaclyn Espinoza* 51.25m; 6. Anna Weber 45.03m
Women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase: 3. Lindsey Ferguson* 10:29.63 (school record); 10. Becca Bauman 11:12.10
Women’s shot put: 7. Anna Weber 14.18m; 8. Jaclyn Espinoza 14.08m
Women’s long jump: 9. Mary Saxer 5.64m
Women’s 10,000-meter run: 10. Heidi Rocha 36.21.90
Women’s javelin: 11. Elise Knutzen 39.93m
* – All-BIG EAST Conference (top three finishers) // NOTE: Top eight finishers in each event score points for team