By Molly Jergenson
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After an excellent start to the 2016 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships yesterday, the University of Notre Dame women’s track team finished the meet with more stellar performances Saturday evening. Molly Seidel, Margaret Bamgbose, and Kaila Barber all gained All-American honors and helped the women’s team to fifth place in the overall standings, their highest finish in program history. Of the nine student-athletes that competed in this championship, every single one returns to campus as a first team All-American.
“It was a great day for Notre Dame women’s track – actually, it was the greatest NCAA track meet for us all,” Irish head coach Alan Turner said. “Finishing fifth puts us on the elite level. I told the team all season we could be a top-10 team. Molly, as usual, was lights out! She and coach [Matt] Sparks have done an amazing job. Every athlete at the meet performed great. I am so proud to be associated with this group of athletes.”
Seidel was the last competitor of the day for the Irish, and once again she did not disappoint. Coming into the 3,000m as a heavy favorite, and having won the 5,000m title just last night, Seidel stepped up and took the lead 200m into the race. Just as she did on Friday, she rolled through lap after lap in the lead, gradually dropping the group of women following her. Erin Finn was once again behind her for the longest amount of time, but Seidel definitively broke open a gap with 1,000m left to go. She crossed the finish line in 8:57.86, winning her fourth national title in the last nine months.
Seidel continues to build an unprecedented legacy at Notre Dame, winning more national titles than anyone in the history of the track and field program. By scoring 20 of the team’s 35 points this weekend, she was a major part of the women’s team’s fifth-place finish, which is the highest finish for any women’s track team in school history.
In the women’s 60m hurdles, Barber was seeded third after the preliminary heats, but knew that the field was full of women that had the potential to run much faster than they did yesterday. Barber got out to a strong start in an exceedingly accomplished field. The fifth-year senior ran a solid race, finishing sixth (8.07), almost as fast as her career-best time.
Bamgbose ran in the first finals heat of the women’s 400m. She had a slower start, and ran in third place for the first lap. As the race came around the final turn, Bamgbose moved into second place to finish the race in 52.12. The second heat followed, with three runners posting times faster than Bamgbose’s. Her time earned her fifth place in the final standings, and marks the fastest time she has run for the event indoors this season. She goes into her last season of eligibility having been named an All-American on nine separate occasions.
The Irish now look forward to the outdoor season, which begins in two weeks as the team travels to the Raleigh Relays at North Carolina State and the Yellow Jacket Invitational hosted by Georgia Tech on March 25th and 26th. Seidel is the defending outdoor champion in the women’s 10,000m race.
Molly Jergenson serves as the Director of Operations for the Track & Field and Cross Country teams at the University of Notre Dame