March 12, 2003
Senior distance specialist Luke Watson was named the Mondo Great Lakes Regional Track Athlete of the Year by the Division I Coaches Association of the U.S. Track Coaches Association on Wednesday.
Watson earned national attention with a spectacular victory in the mile run during the Meyo Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 8. He set the school record for the mile with a 3:57.83 effort and is just the second Irish runner to break the four-minute mile barrier. Watson out-dueled an elite field in the Meyo Mile, as his four closest competitors also ran sub-four minute miles. Entering this weekend’s NCAA Championship, Watson is the favorite to win the national championship in the mile, as his 3:57.83 time is still the best in the nation and he won the BIG EAST Championship in the event.
The mile is not the only event in which Watson has excelled this season. His 7:55.78 3,000-meter time posted at the adidas Boston Indoor Games on Jan. 31, is the eighth-fastest in the country this season.
While Watson will run the 3,000 meters and the mile run at the NCAA Championship, he actually qualified in three events for the national meet. At the Alex Wilson Invitational last weekend, Watson anchored a solid men’s distance medley relay that set the school record in 9:38.40 and automatically qualified for the NCAA meet.
Watson has been a fixture in the Notre Dame track and field and cross country program over the last five years (he is competing in a fifth-year of eligibility in track and field after missing the 2001 season due to injury). A four-time BIG EAST Champion (two outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase titles, the 2002 5,000 meters and this year’s indoor mile), Watson has earned All-America honors five times prior to this year’s track and field season.
He stepped up during the 2000 cross country season to help Notre Dame finish ninth at the NCAA Championship even after the loss of perennial All-American Ryan Shay. Watson finished seventh overall in the frigid temperatures at Ames, Iowa, to complete the course in 30:29.40.
For the 2001 cross country season, Watson combined with Shay to lead the Irish to a number-five ranking in the nation – the highest ranking in school history. He went on to finish second at the BIG EAST Championship that season, helping Notre Dame win the team title, and took third place in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. Watson eventually took fifth place overall at the NCAA Championship.
During the 2002 track season, Watson concentrated on the 3,000 meters during the indoor season and finished third at the NCAA Championship (8:02.18). His third-place effort was the highest individual finish for a Notre Dame track athlete at the indoor meet since 1972.
For the 2002 outdoor season Watson moved to the 5,000 meters and the steeplechase, qualifying for both events at the NCAA outdoor meet. He eventually finished seventh in the steeplechase, but suffered a fall to keep him out of the 5,000 meters. He returned to the track two weeks later at the Minnesota Distance Classic, setting the stage for his future Meyo Mile work with a 4:00.68 outdoor school-record mile run.
Watson now has ownership of six school records: the indoor 3,000 meters (7:54.02), indoor distance medley relay, indoor mile, outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:37.61) and the outdoor mile.
The Stillwater, Minn., native also excels in the classroom, earning first-team Verizon Academic All-America honors last season after posting a 3.381 GPA and graduating with a business degree from the Mendoza College of Business in May of 2002.