Jan. 27, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Junior All-American Kurt Benninger (Chepstow, Ontario/Walkerton D.S.S.) became the first Notre Dame runner in the 116-year history of the Irish track & field program to clock a sub-four-minute mile twice in his career, covering the distance in 3:58.77 to highlight a thrilling night of action at the Notre Dame Invitational, which took place Friday in the Loftus Sports Center on the Notre Dame campus. Benninger’s time was the second-fastest mark in the nation this season, topped only by Iona’s Richard Kiplagat, who ran the fastest mile in the world this year (3:57.40) back on Jan. 13 at the New York City Gotham Cup. Friday’s time also automatically qualified Benninger for this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships, to be held March 10-11 in Fayetteville, Ark.
A three-time All-American (once in cross country, in addition to last year’s mile and distance medley relay), Benninger was a mere two-hundredths of a second off his personal best (3:58.75 at last year’s Meyo Invitational) and less than a second shy of the school record of 3:57.83, set by Luke Watson in the 2002 Meyo Invitational. Besides Benninger’s twin sub-four-minute miles and Watson’s record-setter, Chuck Aragon is the other Irish runner to run the magic mile, going 3:59.9 in 1981 at the Illini Invitational.
“Kurt was especially motivated tonight after he wasn’t invited to Saturday’s Reebok meet in Boston,” Irish head coach Joe Piane said. “He ran with a purpose and really wanted to show those meet organizers what they’re missing out on. It may be their loss, but it’s certainly our gain, and we’re very happy with the way things turned out for Kurt this evening.”
Not to be outdone, two Irish women broke school records at the Notre Dame Invitational. During the afternoon session, freshman Alyissa Hasan (Williamsville, N.Y./Williamsville South HS) set a new Notre Dame record in the pentathlon with 3,655 points, just 45 points short of the NCAA provisional qualifying mark. Later in the evening, freshman Mary Saxer (Lancaster, N.Y./Lancaster Central HS) soared to a new Irish record in the pole vault, clearing 4.05 meters (13 feet, 3.5 inches) to become only the second Notre Dame woman ever to break the four-meter barrier in the event. Saxer’s mark also improved upon her NCAA provisional and BIG EAST qualifying height of 3.95 meters, which she set on Dec. 2 at the Blue & Gold Invitational.
All told, Notre Dame athletes picked up wins in 12 events and registered 21 additional qualifying marks for the BIG EAST Conference Championships, which will take place Feb. 18-19 in Akron, Ohio. At this point in the ’05-06 indoor track & field season, a combined total of 50 Irish track & field athletes have qualified for the BIG EAST meet in 27 different events, while three have posted either automatic or provisional qualifying marks for the NCAA Championships — Benninger (automatic in mile), Saxer (provisional in pole vault) and junior Okechi Ogbuokiri (Willingboro, N.J./Willingboro HS) (provisional in 400 meters).
Notre Dame returns to competition next Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3-4, when it plays host to the 19th annual Meyo Invitational at the Loftus Sports Center. The centerpiece event is the famed Meyo Mile, which regularly features the nation’s top distance runners and annually generates some of the fastest times in the country.
— ND —
MEET RECAP (based on order of competition; top-eight or qualifying Notre Dame athlete results only)
Women’s Pentathlon: Freshman Alyissa Hasan scored 3,655 points to win the five-event competition and log the highest point total in the BIG EAST this year … senior Stacey Cowan placed second with 3,499 points, third in the BIG EAST … sophomore Katie Jannazo finished third with 3,145 points, fifth in the BIG EAST.
Men’s Heptathlon: Freshman Tray Morgan scored 4,435 points to claim the seven-event competition and post the seventh-highest point total in the BIG EAST this season … freshman Gonzalo Brenner ended up with 4,306 points, the eighth-best point total in the conference.
Men’s Long Jump: Junior Christopher Jacques won with a leap of 6.82 meters (22-4.5), matching his season best and BIG EAST qualifying mark from the Dec. 2 Blue & Gold Invitational.
Women’s Triple Jump: Junior Cassie Gullickson took top honors with a hop, step and jump of 11.79 meters (38-8.25), adding nearly a quarter of a meter to her season-best and BIG EAST qualifying distance, previously set at the Blue & Gold Invitational.
Women’s Weight Throw: Senior Meghan Horn finished third with a season-best toss of 15.51 meters (50-10.75), improving on her conference qualifying distance … freshman Anna Weber took fifth place at 14.56 meters (47-9.25) … junior Stephanie Best placed ninth and matched her season best with a heave of 11.41 meters (37-5.25).
Men’s Weight Throw: All three Irish competitors posted season best tosses … junior Garet Koxlien finished second with a personal-best throw of 17.00 meters (55-9.25), exceeding his 16.91-meter mark at last year’s conference meet and furthering his qualifier for this year’s BIG EAST Championships … sophomore Kyle Annen was third at 16.37 meters (53-8.5), adding to his conference qualifier … junior Kevin Moffitt became the third Notre Dame athlete to qualify for the BIG EAST meet in the event, booking his ticket to Akron with a personal-best throw of 15.20 meters (49-10.5) en route to a ninth-place showing.
Women’s Pole Vault: Freshman Mary Saxer won the event for the fourth time in as many meets, clearing 4.05 meters (13-3.5) to set a new school record, breaking Jaime Volkmer’s height of 4.00 meters (13-1.5) at the 2003 BIG EAST Championships; Saxer’s height was the best of her rookie season, adding to her BIG EAST and NCAA provisional qualifying figures … senior Laura Huarte finished second and freshman Kate Mattoon tied for third, with both tying their season bests and conference standards of 3.65 meters (11-11.75) — Huarte took second based upon fewer misses.
Women’s High Jump: Senior Stacey Cowan led a top-four sweep for Notre Dame by equalling her best leap of the season — 1.73 meters (5-8) … junior Cassie Gullickson, senior Emily Loomis and freshman Lauren Biscardi all bowed out after clearing 1.68 meters (5-6), with Gullickson taking second on fewer misses and Loomis and Biscardi sharing third-place honors.
Women’s Shot Put: Senior Meghan Horn and freshman Anna Weber finished 1-3 in the event with season-best tosses … Horn’s heave of 13.66 meters (44-9.75) won top honors, while Weber’s put of 13.10 meters (42-11.75) improved on her previous best by a quarter of a meter.
Men’s Shot Put: Sophomore Mike Schubert finished second and became one of the latest Irish qualifiers for the BIG EAST Championship with his personal-best toss of 15.74 meters (51-7.75) … junior Garet Koxlien placed fourth with a personal-best heave of 14.38 meters (47-2.25).
Women’s 60 Meters: Junior Maryann Erigha and sophomore Brienne Davis held down the top two spots … Erigha won in a time of 7.54 seconds (just off her season best), while Davis took second in 7.82 seconds (just shy of her fastest mark of the year).
Men’s 60 Meters: Sophomore Zachary Labrecque came in third in 7.20 seconds, while freshman Charlie Hilding’s fifth-place time of 7.42 was a season best … sophomore Nathan Payne (7.43) and senior Ryan Regula (7.52) finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Women’s 500 Meters: Junior Okechi Ogbuokiri qualified for the BIG EAST Championship in her second event, winning Friday’s 500 meters in 1:14.38 … freshman Nicole Yergler was third (1:18.93), with sophomores Jennifer Leong (1:20.42) and Antonia Bethel (1:22.26) coming in fifth and sixth.
Men’s 500 Meters: Sophomore Bob Kueny placed second in a time of 1:05.82, just missing qualification for the BIG EAST meet in a second event (also 400 meters) … freshman Billy Buzaid was sixth, hitting the line in 1:09.55.
Women’s Mile: Junior Amy Kohlmeier finished second in a time of 4:58.47, improving her BIG EAST qualifying time, while senior Elizabeth Webster did the same with her fifth-place clocking of 5:02.76 … sophomore Julie Opet booked her first spot in the conference meet with a time of 5:04.63 that put her in seventh place.
Men’s Mile: Junior All-American Kurt Benninger outkicked Butler’s Scott Overall down the stretch to post the fourth sub-four minute mile in school history (3.58.77) and automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships; Benninger’s time also was the second-fastest in the nation this year … not to be overlooked, three other Irish runners qualified for the BIG EAST Championships in the event, as senior Vinny Ambrico (third – 4:10.47), freshman Daniel Clark (fourth – 4:13.98) and senior A.J. Andrassy (eighth – 4:19.23) all benefitted from the torrid pace.
Men’s 400 Meters: Sophomore Austin Wechter posted the first of two BIG EAST qualifying times on Friday, winning the 400-meter dash in a personal-best time of 48.55 seconds …senior Ryan Postel claimed a spot at the conference meet in his second event (coupled with the 200 meters), finishing second in 48.74, while junior Jordan Powell also met the BIG EAST standard with his time of 49.60 and fourth-place showing.
Men’s 60-Meter Hurdles: Sophomore Jose Genao lowered his conference-qualifying time to a season-best 8.37 seconds with his runner-up finish.
Women’s 800 Meters: Notre Dame made big gains in terms of BIG EAST qualifiers in this event, as three more athletes met the conference minimum on Friday … sophomore Jacqueline Carter led a group of four Irish runners in the top five, setting a new personal best and winning time of 2:12.84 … freshman Ramsey Kavan (second – 2:13.60), junior Brianne Schmidt (fourth – 2:14.17) and senior All-American Stephanie Madia (fifth – 2:15.32) also earned berths in the BIG EAST meet, each in their second event (Kavan and Madia also in the mile, while Schmidt made it in the 1,000 meters).
Men’s 800 Meters: Like their female counterparts, the Irish men reaped big rewards in this event, as five Notre Dame runners placed among the top eight in the field and each of them had a time good enough to put them in the BIG EAST Championship field … junior Thomas Chamney raced away at the start and held on to win in a time of 1:50.52 … he and sophomore Adam Currie added the 800 to their qualification in the 1,000 meters, as Currie finished just behind Chamney in Friday’s 800 (1:50.72) … sophomore John Cavanaugh earned his first trip to the BIG EAST meet with a third place showing (1:51.02), with junior Todd Ptacek coming home fourth in 1:51.54 … sophomore Jake Watson is headed back to the conference clambake after placing eighth in a time of 1:52.78.
Women’s 200 Meters: Sophomores Jennifer Leong and Antonia Bethel took fifth and sixth place in times of 27.21 and 27.36.
Men’s 200 Meters: Sophomore Austin Wechter qualified for the BIG EAST Championship in his third different event with a fifth-place finish in a time of 22.65 seconds (he also will compete in the 400 and 500 meters at the league meet).
Men’s 3,000 Meters: Senior Tim Moore won the event, qualified for the BIG EAST Championship and trimmed more than five seconds off his personal best time in the process, crossing the line in 8:11.54 … freshman Patrick Smyth also made the conference qualifying standard with his third-place time of 8:19.58.