GREENSBORO, N.C. — After a handful of thrilling runs at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships June 5-8, the Irish have swept Atlantic Coast Conference Track Athlete of the Year honors. Men’s 1,500m champion Yared Nuguse and women’s 1,500m bronze medalist Jessica Harris were named the men’s and women’s ACC Track Athlete of the Year as announced by the conference Monday afternoon.
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Nuguse paved the way for great Irish finishes from day one this season. The NCAA individual champion in the men’s 1,500m run continues to push the dramatics on the track, with an unbeatable final kick that has everyone eager for more. His outdoor season, highlighted by a blink-and-you-miss-it finish at the NCAA Championships, was outstanding from start to finish. The sophomore kicked off his outdoor season with a first place finish in the 800m at the Stanford Invitational with a personal best time of 1:48.29. In his next time out, Nuguse raced his way to third overall at the Bryan Clay Invitational, recording a personal best time of 3:38.32 and third best in the nation while coming just 0.03 seconds shy of the Notre Dame program record.
“I am proud of Yared and all he has accomplished this past year,” assistant coach Sean Carlson said. “He has won three ACC titles and two national titles.”
His stellar season continued in the postseason as he won gold at the ACC Championships in the 1,500m, earning First Team All-ACC honors before racing his way to the NCAA Championships with a win at the East Region Prelims. Finishing third in the 1,500m semifinals in Austin, Nuguse was an underdog heading into the finals. Running with the pack through the first 1,100m, Nuguse fell back on the final lap, giving space to Michigan State’s Justine Kiprotich and Wisconsin’s Oliver Hoare to pass him on the outside. Not one for easy finishes, he focused on the line ahead and willed his way to a first place finish, edging Kiprotich for the title by 0.003 seconds.
His outdoor season accolades conclude a strong 2018-19 season including a cross country conference title and NCAA Championship appearance as well as an indoor NCAA title in the men’s DMR and ACC titles in the DMR and indoor mile. Other 2018-19 honors include two ACC Player of the Week awards, NCAA Athlete of the Week and Academic All-ACC recognition.
“It is hard to have had a better year on the track. The jumps he has made in the first two years of his college career are impressive, and I am excited to be apart of his journey for the next two years,” Carlson added.
Harris, a graduate student from Cockeysville, Maryland, concluded her Irish campaign with a bronze medal in the women’s 1,500m run with a season best time of 4:11.96. Having not competed through the indoor season, Harris returned to the track for the first time at the Stanford Invitational where she placed second overall in the women’s 800m run. She then posted a personal best 3K time of 9:09.71 on her way to second at the Louisville Invitational in early April. The following week she recorded the fastest 1,500m time in the nation as she clocked a 4:13.04 finish at the Virginia Challenge on her way to first overall.
“Jessica Harris is an exceptional leader both for our program and for the sport of track and field,” assistant coach Kendra Foley said. “She has been a vital piece of this team both as a role model and when she toes the line. She comes to practice everyday with a positive spirit and drive to get better and make those around her better. She is so deserving of this honor and I’m excited to see her succeed in what lies ahead for her post college.”
Her time at the 2019 ACC Championships included two Second Team All-ACC honors as she placed fourth in the 800m as well as sixth in the 5K with a personal best time of 16:14.47. At the East Region Prelims, Harris competed in both the 1,500m and 5K runs where she automatically qualified for a spot in the championship meet with a first place finish in the quarterfinals. After finishing fourth in the semi final race at the NCAA Championships, Harris raced down her opponents in a competitive 1,500m run in the finals to clinch third overall and All-American status.
On top of being named ACC Player of the Week by the conference on April 24, Harris also earned All-American honors at the cross country championships as she led her team to a top-10 finish on the national stage as well as securing a runner-up team finish at the ACC Cross Country Championships in October. A six time All-American and 2018 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA D1 All-Region honoree, Harris served as the Notre Dame team captain from 2017-19.
“Jessica Harris finished her Notre Dame experience as one of the most decorated athletes in Notre Dame track history,” Hatherly-PianeHead Coach Matt Sparks said. “She has multiple school records and NCAA All-American accolades but this is her first ACC Track Athlete of the Year award. We could not be more proud of the person and athlete she had developed into.”