June 9, 2007
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Senior Kurt Benninger (Chepstow, Ontario/Walkerton D.S.S.) turned in one of the fastest 1,500-meter races in Notre Dame track & field history, finishing fifth in Saturday’s finals at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which were contested at A.G. Spanos Sports Complex/Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif. Benninger clocked in with a personal-best time of 3:39.80 — also the second-fastest mark in school history — and collected his fourth career track All-America citation, as well as the fourth by an Irish track & field athlete at this weekend’s NCAA meet (three men/one woman).
Benninger’s fifth-place finish is the best for a Notre Dame male in the NCAA 1,500 meters since 1981, when Chuck Aragon also took fifth place in a school-record time of 3:38.40. In addition, Benninger is the first Irish men’s 1,500-meter All-American since 1986, when Jim Tyler finished eighth in the NCAA finals. In Saturday’s race, the Canadian national and Notre Dame tri-captain made a big push in the final 300 meters, coming on strong down the backstretch to pass four runners, then adding a solid finishing kick to earn his first outdoor track All-America honor and best-ever showing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships (surpassing his 25th-place effort in the ’04 1,500 meters).
Benninger also contributed four team points for Notre Dame, which put the Irish in a 54th-place tie in the final standings. It’s the highest score for the Notre Dame men at the NCAA outdoor meet since 2002, when they collected 10 team points on the way to a tie for 24th place. Meanwhile, the Irish women tied for 41st place with six points after fifth-year senior Molly Huddle (Elmira, N.Y./Notre Dame) finished third in the 5,000-meter final and picked up her record-setting 10th All-America plaque late Friday night.
Notre Dame put together a particularly successful weekend, with four of its six NCAA qualifiers advancing to the finals in their respective events, and all four finalists going on to collect All-America honors. In addition to Benninger and Huddle, sophomore Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah/Judge Memorial) was a first-time All-American with his ninth-place showing in the 5,000 meters, and senior Todd Ptacek (Benton Harbor, Mich./Lake Michigan Catholic) took home his first All-America hardware with a 13th-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. It’s the first time since 2002 that Notre Dame has fielded four or more outdoor track & field All-Americans, while one has to go all the way back to 1968 to find the last time the Irish men’s track & field squad had three outdoor All-Americans.
While the college track season might be over for Notre Dame, some Irish athletes still are in line to participate at the 2007 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships June 21-24 in Indianapolis. Huddle, who completed her college eligibility Friday night, has met the “A” qualification standard in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, running a season-best 15:32.83 for 5K (at the Mount SAC Relays on April 13 in Walnut, Calif.) and 33:20.42 for 10K (at the BIG EAST Championships on May 5 in Storrs, Conn.). Three other Notre Dame men have met the “B” qualifying minimum in their events — Smyth in the 5,000 meters (13:48.53 at the Stanford Invitational on March 30 in Stanford, Calif.), Ptacek in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:41.67 in the NCAA semifinal on June 6 in Sacramento, Calif.) and junior Jake Watson (Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater Area) in the mile/1,500 meters (3:59.40 in the mile at the Music City Distance Carnival on June 2 in Nashville, Tenn.). What’s more, two former Notre Dame greats are “A” qualifiers for the USATF Outdoor Championships — Ryan Shay (’01) in the 10,000 meters (28:03.44 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational on April 28 in Stanford, Calif.) and Luke Watson (’02) in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:36.12 at last year’s USATF Outdoors on June 25, 2006 in Indianapolis).
— ND —
2007 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
June 9, 2007
Sacramento, Calif. (A.G. Spanos Sports Complex/Hornet Stadium)
NOTRE DAME PARTICIPANTS (* – All-America honoree)
Men’s 1,500-meter final: 5. Kurt Benninger (ND)* 3:39.80
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
Men: 1. Florida State 54; 2. LSU 48; 3. Auburn 34; 54. (tie) NOTRE DAME 4.
Women: 1. Arizona State 60; 2. LSU 53; 3. Michigan 36; 41. (tie) NOTRE DAME 6.