June 20, 2002
University of Notre Dame cross country and track and field standouts Ryan Shay (Central Lake, Mich.) and Luke Watson (Stillwater, Minn.) were named to the 2001-02 Verizon Academic All-America Second Team earlier this week. Two of the most decorated Irish distance runners in school history, Shay and Watson led the Irish to the 2001 BIG EAST Cross Country Championship, a sixth-place team finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championship meet and posted high finishes in both the indoor and outdoor track and field national championship meets as well.
Shay concluded his stellar collegiate career at the 2002 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge, La., two weeks ago. Looking to defend his 2001 10,000-meter individual title, Shay finished second to 2001 individual cross country champion Boaz Chebiywo from Eastern Michigan. It was the 10th All-America honor for Shay in his five years of competition at Notre Dame (he qualified for the 2001-02 season after missing both a cross country and track and field season earlier in his career due to injuries).
Excelling in the classroom as well as the track and cross country courses, Shay graduated in May of 2002 with an economics and computer applications degree (3.21 GPA).
Shay’s list of accomplishments at Notre Dame include four National Catholic Cross Country individual meet titles, ownership of the indoor and outdoor 10,000- and 5,000-meter school records, Notre Dame’s first BIG EAST Cross Country Championship individual winner (1999), the school’s first NCAA individual title (10,000 meters, 2001) since 1972 and four consecutive top-10 finishes in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Championship.
Shay’s career will continue at the professional level and he will take a first step toward future Olympic competition this weekend at the 2002 USA Track and Field Championships in Palo Alto, Calif.
Watson will join Shay in competition this weekend after a stellar track and field and cross country campaign. A 2002 graduate with an accounting degree (3.38 GPA), Watson will be studying toward a master’s degree next year while competing for the Irish track and field teams once again (he missed the 2001 indoor and outdoor track and field seasons with an injury).
Watson, who anchored the 2000 cross country team while Shay was sidelined with an injury, stepped his production to even higher levels in 2001. He earned All-America honors in addition to taking the Notre Dame Invitational title for the second consecutive season. His All-America finish at the NCAA Championship was the second top-10 effort at the national meet in Watson’s career.
Moving to track and field for the indoor season, Watson concentrated on the 3,000 meters and qualified for the NCAA Championship in Fayetteville, Ark. He ended up third in the final 3,000-meter race, recording the top finish for a Notre Dame track and field athlete in the NCAA indoor meet since Raghib “Rocket” Ismail finished second in the 55 meters in 1991.
Watson continued on to the 5,000 meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase in the outdoor season. He qualified for both races at the NCAA meet, but after falling in the preliminaries of the steeplechase and gutting through the final race to finish seventh (and earn the third All-America honor of his career), did not run the 5,000 due to lingering effects from the fall. Watson will run the 3,000-meter steeplechase this weekend at the USA Track and Field Championships.
Most recently, Watson competed in a mile race at the Minnesota Distance Classic. He easily won the race while running for Notre Dame, posting a 4:00.68 time to break Chuck Aragon’s (1981) school outdoor mile record.
Shay and Watson become the seventh and eighth Notre Dame track and field athletes to earn All-America honors and Academic All-America honors in the same season. Mike McWilliams (1995), Jason Rexing (’97), Jeff Hojnacki (’97), Errol Williams (’98), Alison Klemmer (’99) and Michael Brown (’99) were the others.