February 14, 1999

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame freshman Luke Watson (Stillwater, Minn.) won in an all out sprint to the finish to claim the 1999 USA Junior Winter Cross Country National Championship Sunday at the Lake Spanway Golf Course in Tacoma, Wash.

Watson, an all-BIG EAST selection for the Irish in 1998, beat second-place runner Steve Slattery of the University of Colorado by just two seconds with a time of 23:26 on the 8K course. In 39-degree conditions, Watson edged Slattery and two Arizona State runners, Isaiah Festa and Fasil Benzuneh, in the final 300 meters. Fifty-five of the top junior runners in the country began the race, which started at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

As a result of his finish, Watson, plus the other top five runners, will represent the United States at the 1999 World Junior Cross Country Championships held this year in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 28, 1999.

Watson won the Minnesota state cross country championships as a senior at Stillwater High School. He also was a two-time high school track All-American in the 4X800-meter relay and the 2,000-meter steeplechase.

Watson adds to the great tradition and success of Notre Dame runners in the USA Junior National Championship. The Stillwater, Minn. native is the third Irish cross country runner to win the race, joining former All-Americans John Coyle (1990) and Jason Rexing (1995). Watson will also become the fifth Notre Dame student-athlete to run at the World Junior Cross Country Championships. Coyle, Rexing, Antonio Arce and Ryan Shay also represented the United States at the world championships.

Top 10 Finishers – 1. Luke Watson, Notre Dame 23:26 2. Steve Slattery, Boulder, Colo.23:28 3. Isaiah Festa, Arizona St. 23:42 4. Fasil Benzuneh, Arizona St. 23:43 5. Jorge Torres, Wheeling, Ill. 23:45 6. Adam Tenforde, Richmond. Wash. 23:51 7. Matt Adams, Heber City, Utah 23:59 8. Justin Wood, Flagstaff, Ariz. 24:06 9. Adam Wallace, Dartmouth College 24:16 10. Daniel Lincoln, Fayetteville, Ark. 24:19