Feb. 27, 2016
By Molly Jergenson
BOSTON — As the University of Notre Dame track & field teams began the final day of the ACC Indoor Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, both the Irish men and women were having very successful meets. That trend continues on Saturday, with the women featuring another 1-2 finish from Molly Seidel and Anna Rohrer in the women’s 3,000 meters. Meanwhile, in the men’s competition, Nathan Richartz won the pole vault with a new school record of 5.46m (17-11).
When all was said and done, the Irish women finished the meet in third place after a very tight competition. Miami won the meet with 85 points, Clemson was second with 83, and Notre Dame finished third with 82 points.
Nathan Richartz won the ACC indoor pole vault title on Saturday with a new school record leap of 5.46 meters (17-11).
In the women’s mile, Danielle Aragon positioned herself well throughout the race with the top 5 athletes in the field. She was in excellent position to move going into the last 600m, but as the leaders took off, she couldn’t quite stick with them. After a disqualification in the lead pack, Aragon finished strong in third place, running 4:39.25 for her fastest time of the season. Farther back, Rachel DaDamio hung on as long as she could to finish in 4:46.58, just a second off the personal best time she set Friday, and good for ninth place.
Kaila Barber competed in the finals of both the 60-meter hurdles and the 60-meter dash on Saturday. Although she came into the meet as the favorite to win the hurdles, Barber struggled at the third hurdle in the final race and finished in fourth place with a time of 8.22 seconds. Later in the 60-meter dash, Barber ran a personal best of 7.53 seconds, good for seventh place overall.
In the women’s 400-meter run, Margaret Bamgbose ran a strong race to take second in 53.21 behind Miami’s Shakima Wimbley, her perpetual rival in the event.
Jessica Harris ran well in the 800 meters amidst high-quality competition. She put herself in a position to succeed, running with the lead pack through 600 meters. As the group took off for the finish, Harris hung on to finish fifth in 2:07.67, just off her season best.
The women’s 3,000-meter run was as eventful for the Irish as the 5,000 was last night. After the gun went off, Seidel and Rohrer tucked in the lead pack behind Liv Westphal from Boston College. The Notre Dame pair stayed patient through the first mile, running an even pace. With 1,200 meters to go, the duo broke away and started pushing the pace. Seidel quickly gapped the field with Rohrer following behind. Just as they did in Friday’s 5,000 meters, Seidel finished first in 9:02.24, setting a new ACC meet record, while Rohrer finished second in 9:11.14. Also in the event, Lexi Pelletier ran a new 9:31.30 for 13th, Aragon came back for a fourth race and finished in 9:35.81, and Annie Heffernan ran 9:38.46.
For the second day in a row, Notre Dame’s Molly Seidel and Anna Rohrer turned in a thrilling 1-2 distance finish at the ACC Championships, taking the top two spots in the 3,000 meters, with Seidel setting her second ACC meet record in as many races this weekend.
“Molly and Anna had lights out performances, like we expected,” Notre Dame head coach Alan Turner said. “Those two combined for 36 out of our 82 points. That’s a huge part of our success this weekend.”
After the 3,000, the meet scoring was incredibly tight. Clemson led with 77 points, Miami was in second with 75, Notre Dame held third with 74 points, and Florida State was closing in with 70. As every exciting track meet does, the final result would depend on the results of the 4×400-meter relay.
In the relay, Parker English took the lead leg for the Irish, running a strong split of 54.74. Barber was on the second leg of the relay, running 54.69. Typically, Barber runs shorter races, and over the last stretch the others started to gain on her. Jordan Shead got the baton for the third leg and split 55.69, but Miami and Clemson were able to establish a lead on her by the time she passed the baton to Bamgbose. However, the Irish veteran gradually closed on Clemson, and pulled in front of the Tigers into second place as she went down the straightaway to close in 51.97. Notre Dame’s final time of 3:37.07 was its fastest this year.
“I’m so proud of the effort by our women’s team,” Turner said. “I knew it was going to come down to a few points and the last race. We could look at the results and find three or four points all over the place, and Miami and Clemson could say the same thing. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens with these three teams outdoors. The girls know we have a great team and the ACC is a tough conference. We’ll be competing for that win outdoors.”
In the pole vault, Richartz came into the meet expected to finish third. At his opening height, Richartz appeared to struggle a bit, missing his first attempt. However, he easily cleared his second attempt and moved forward without looking back. When he made his third attempt at 5.32m (17-5.5) and the other athletes failed, Richartz won the meet. Rather than moving up in height according to the typical progression, he chose to move the bar all the way to 5.46m (17-11), which would be a new school record. His first two attempts were near misses, but on his last chance, the Irish standout cleared the bar.
For an athlete who had never been on the podium at a championship meet, Richartz leaves the meet as an ACC champion, a Notre Dame school record holder, and tied for sixth in the NCAA Division I standings this year.
“Nate was amazing today,” Turner said. “We knew all season that Virginia Tech’s vaulters would be good, and Nate came out and gave an unbelievable performance.”
Also contributing to the men’s team score, Jake Dumford had an excellent performance in the mile. Running a steady race from the gun, Dumford ran smart and tactically sound, surging at the right time with 400 meters to go to finish in fifth place, running 4:03.41. Even though it was his third mile run of the meet, it was a new personal best for Dumford.
“Jake had a very solid performance that gives us something to build on,” Turner noted.
In the 400-meter run, the Irish had two athletes qualify for the finals. In the first heat, Harvey Smith almost beat the leader at the line, but finished second in 48.15. Alex Groesch was in the second heat which got out at a significantly faster pace. He was able to maintain contact and finished in 48.46. Overall, Smith and Groesch placed fourth and sixth, respectively.
“My 400 runners weren’t supposed to score anything, and two of them placed,” Turner said with a note of pride in his voice. “They stepped up and did a great job.”
Coming out of the second heat, the men’s 4×400 relay ran an unbelievable race. They maintained a lead throughout and ran very close to the program’s fastest time this season. Drake Stimson, who came to the team as a jumper rather than a sprinter, ran the lead off leg for the Irish in 49.48 and handed off to Smith, who got passed up at the handoff, but quickly moved back into position. Smith ran a split of 47.23 to hand off to Pat O’Connell. As an 800-meter runner, O’Connell ran an excellent split of 49.39 to keep the Irish in the lead and get the baton to Groesch. With a great finishing split of 47.56, Groesch helped Notre Dame win its heat in 3:13.64 and finish fourth overall.
The Irish men completed the ACC meet in seventh place with 45 points, a definite success based on what we had expected.
“I’m actually more surprised about them than the women,” Turner said. “I was going to be very happy if the men scored 30 points, but we outdid that and scored 45! The guys really stepped up and performed well. We have a lot to build on with the men’s team. As we get healthier and get more bodies out there, we’ll be looking to be a top-five conference team outdoors.”
— ND —
Molly Jergenson serves as the Director of Operations for the track & field and cross country teams at the University of Notre Dame.