Senior Jake Watson finished second in the 1,500 meters and was part of Notre Dame's second-place 4x800-meter relay team, helping the Irish to their fourth BIG EAST outdoor title in the past six years.

Irish Men Win BIG EAST Outdoor Track & Field Championship

May 4, 2008

VILLANOVA, Pa. – For the fourth time in the past six years, and the fifth time overall, Notre Dame has won the BIG EAST Conference Men’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships, taking the 2008 title by a convincing 122.5-105 margin over Connecticut on Sunday at Jumbo Elliott Track/Villanova Stadium in Villanova, Pa. The Irish men also continued their impressive run as one of the BIG EAST’s dominant programs, winning either the indoor or outdoor conference track & field title (or both) for the sixth consecutive year (indoors – 2003, 2005, 2007; outdoors – 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008).

Veteran head coach Joe Piane and his assistants — John Millar (sprints), Tim Connelly (distance), Scott Winsor (jumps), Adam Beltran (throws) and Luke Watson (distance) — also earned some hardware of their own as the BIG EAST Men’s Coaching Staff of the Year. It’s the fifth time the Irish coaches have garnered that award during the conference’s outdoor meet, adding to citations they won in 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2006. Piane and his aides also have taken home top coaching honors at the BIG EAST men’s indoor meet on three occasions (2003, 2005 and 2007).

The Notre Dame women’s track & field team finished third at this weekend’s BIG EAST Outdoor Championships with 86 points. Louisville took the conference title with 106 points, while Pittsburgh held off a late charge by the Irish in the final two relays to take runner-up honors with 87 points.

Senior Jake Watson (Stillwater, Minn.) had a hand in two second-place finishes for the Irish on Sunday. First, he battled through a slow-paced 1,500-meter run, placing second in 3:54.48. Fifth-year senior Kurt Benninger (Chepstow, Ontario) and junior Daniel Clark (Jackson, Mich.) also scored points for Notre Dame in the race, with Benninger taking sixth in 3:55.68 and Clark coming home in eighth place (3:55.96).

Watson came back later in the afternoon and ran the second leg for the Irish 4×800-meter relay team that finished second in a time of 7:28.06, the fifth-fastest time in school history. Sophomore Blake Choplin (Kansas City, Mo.) led off the relay, while sophomore Cameron Eckert (Markle, Ind.) took the baton from Watson, and senior Adam Currie (Verdun, Quebec) ran the anchor leg for Notre Dame. Watson now has six career all-conference citations (including four this year), while Choplin took his third all-BIG EAST award and Eckert claimed his second. Currie, who also qualified for the NCAA Mideast Regional in the 800 meters (1:49.51; fourth place), has been a staple of the Irish distance relays throughout his career and picked up his seventh all-BIG EAST plaque.

Sophomore Joanna Schultz (Holmen, Wis.) added a pair of all-conference honors to her trophy case on Sunday (raising her career total to seven), finishing third in the 400-meter dash in 53.88 seconds (with a faster regional-qualifying time of 53.83 in the preliminaries) and running the second leg on Notre Dame’s 4×400-meter relay squad, which wound up second in a time of 3:37.85 (trimming nearly four seconds off their previous best regional-qualifying time). Freshman Cora Dayon (Trenton, N.J.) started off the relay for the Irish, with freshman Natalie Johnson (Scottsdale, Ariz.) toting the baton on the third leg and senior Brienne Davis (Grand Prairie, Texas) anchoring the unit. It’s the second all-conference designation each for Dayon and Johnson (who finished 2-3 in the 500 meters during February’s BIG EAST indoor meet), while Davis pulled in her third career all-league citation.

Junior Anna Weber (Indianapolis, Ind.) collected her second career all-BIG EAST award, finishing second in the hammer throw with a top mark of 55.26 meters. Meanwhile, the youthful Irish 4×800-meter relay quartet cut the tape in third place (8:58.47), clocking the third-fastest time in school history in the process. Freshman Abby Higgins (Naperville, Ill.) got the relay going for Notre Dame, followed by classmate Kelly Langhans (Baden, Pa.) and sophomore Elizabeth Myers (Kalispell, Mont), with sophomore Molly Sullivan (Elmhurst, Ill.) running anchor to give all four ladies their first career all-conference plaques.

A similarly-young Notre Dame men’s 4×100-meter relay unit also took third-place honors in 41.63 seconds. Freshman Chandler Brooks (Kansas City, Mo.) ran the first leg before handing off to fellow rookie Miklos Szebeny (Telki, Hungary). A third freshman, Tyrell Atkins (Omaha, Neb.), came off the final corner before sophomore Eric Quick (Bakersfield, Calif.) closed out matters for the Irish. All three freshmen earned their first all-BIG EAST certificates, while Quick nabbed his fourth career all-conference honor (and third this season to go along with matching third-place showings in the indoor long jump and triple jump).

Following this week’s final exams, athletes on both Notre Dame track & field teams will have one final opportunity to post qualification marks for NCAA competition when they take part in the Georgia Tech Invitational on May 16-17 in Atlanta. The Irish then will head to Fayetteville, Ark., on May 30-31 for the NCAA Mideast Regional, where the top five finishers in each event will advance to the NCAA Championships, slated for June 11-14 in Des Moines, Iowa.

— ND —

2008 BIG EAST Outdoor Track & Field Championships
May 2-4, 2008
Villanova, Pa. (Jumbo Elliott Track at Villanova Stadium)

FINAL TEAM STANDINGS (through 22 events)
Men: 1. NOTRE DAME 122.5
; 2. Connecticut 105; 3. Louisville 93; 4. Cincinnati 80; 5. Rutgers 78.0
Women: 1. Louisville 106; 2. Pittsburgh 87; 3. NOTRE DAME 86; 4. Connecticut 84; 5. Villanova 73.

Men’s 1,500-meter run:
2. Jake Watson* 3:54.48; 6. Kurt Benninger 3:55.68; 8. Daniel Clark 3:55.96
Men’s 4×800-meter relay: 2. Notre Dame* (Blake Choplin, Jake Watson, Cameron Eckert, Adam Currie) 7:28.06
Men’s 4×100-meter relay: 3. Notre Dame* (Chandler Brooks, Miklos Szebeny, Tyrell Atkins, Eric Quick) 41.63
Men’s 800-meter run: 4. Adam Currie 1:49.51
Men’s 400-meter hurdles: 4. Balazs Molnar 52.62
Men’s hammer throw: 4. Jeff Mensch 53.12m; 5. Greg Davis 52.94m; 14. John Belcher 46.65m
Men’s pole vault: 4. (tie) Matt Schipper 4.95m; 7. Jim Merchun 4.50m; 8. (tie) Brian Mahon 4.50m
Men’s triple jump: 4. Eric Quick 15.02m
Men’s 4×400-meter relay: 4. Notre Dame (Billy Buzaid, Austin Wechter, Bob Kueny, Balazs Molnar) 3:13.03
Men’s 5,000-meter run: 6. Patrick Smyth 14:32.75; 11. Dan Jackson 15:01.49

Women’s hammer throw: 2. Anna Weber* 55.26m
Women’s 4×400-meter relay: 2. Notre Dame* (Cora Dayon, Joanna Schultz, Natalie Johnson, Brienne Davis) 3:37.85
Women’s 400-meter dash: 3. Joanna Schultz* 53.88
Women’s 4×800-meter relay: 3. Notre Dame* (Abby Higgins, Kelly Langhans, Elizabeth Myers, Molly Sullivan) 8:58.47
Women’s 800-meter run: 4. Kelly Langhans 2:09.34; 7. Natalie Johnson 2:11.75
Women’s 100-meter hurdles: 5. Alyissa Hasan 13.73
Women’s 5,000-meter run: 6. Marissa Treece 17:17.45
Women’s 4×100-meter relay: 6. Notre Dame (Kali Watkins, Joanna Schultz, Brienne Davis, Alyissa Hasan) 47.49
Women’s 200-meter dash: 7. Joanna Schultz 24.56
Women’s 100-meter dash: 8. Brienne Davis 11.92
* – All-BIG EAST Conference (top three finishers) // NOTE: Top eight finishers in each event score points for team