June 9, 2003
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s track and field teams will be represented by 10 different athletes at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship in Sacramento, Calif., from Wednesday, June 11 – Saturday, June 14.
Notre Dame’s competitors include senior Luke Watson (5,000 meters), freshman Molly Huddle (5,000 meters), freshman Stacey Cowan (high jump), sophomore Lauren King (1,500 meters), senior Jennifer Handley (5,000 meters), senior Tameisha King (long jump, 4×100-meter relay), senior Kymia Love (4×100 relay, 4×400 relay), junior Kristen Dodd (4×100 relay, 4×400 relay), junior Ayesha Boyd (4×100 relay, 4×400 relay) and sophomore Tiffany Gunn (4×400 relay).
The 10 competitors is the most the Notre Dame program has ever sent to the NCAA outdoor meet, eclipsing the nine entrants from 2000. The ’03 indoor meet featured the most-ever Irish competitors in a NCAA championship meet, as 12 Notre Dame competitors were in the field at Fayetteville.
The emergence of the women’s team at Notre Dame is even more evident this season. The ’03 NCAA outdoor meet marks the second-straight event in which both the women’s 4×100 and 4×400 meter relays have qualified (the 4×100 team finished fifth a year ago). Luke Watson is the lone male competitor for the Irish this year and his making his third appearance at the outdoor meet.
Breakdown of the Irish competitors, event-by-event:
Luke Watson (Stillwater, Minn.) – Watson has firmly established himself among the upper echelon of distance runners in Notre Dame history. The exclamation point for his career at Notre Dame was provided at the Meyo Invitational during the indoor season when he outran a premier field to shatter the school record in the mile (3:57.83). He competed in both the mile and the 3,000 meters at the NCAA indoor meet, earning All-America honors in both events. That gives the graduated senior seven All-America certificates in his career: cross country – ’00, ’01, indoor 3,000 meters (’02, ’03), outdoor steeplechase (’02), indoor mile (’03) and the DMR (’00). Watson had previously ran both the steeplechase and the 5,000 meters outdoors, but has decided to concentrate on the 5,000 meters at the NCAA meet in pursuit of his first individual national championship. He will enter the meet ranked fourth in the 5,000 meters (13:38.73), behind Alistair Cragg from Stanford (13:25.59), Boaz Cheboiywo from Eastern Michigan (13:29.77) and Louis Luchini from Stanford (13:31.80). Watson began the outdoor season with a victory in the steeplechase at the Tom Botts Invitational (8:53.07). He ran the invitational 5,000 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays and finished 11th in 13:38.73. Looking to duplicate a victory at the Drake Relays from ’02, Watson then ran the anchor leg of the 4xmile relay at the prestigious event, helping his team finish third (16:48.57). At the BIG EAST Championship on May 2-4, Watson showed his value to the team by leading the Irish men to the conference championship – as the men’s team became the first Notre Dame track team to sweep the indoor and outdoor titles in the same season. Watson posted victories in the 5,000 meters (4:14.14) and steeplechase (8:49.45). His steeplechase victory was the third of his career (’00, ’02). Moving on to the Mideast Regional on May 30, Watson finished third in the 5,000 meters (14:07.11) to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship.
Molly Huddle (Elmira, N.Y.) – Huddle enters the NCAA Championship as one of the favorites in the 5,000 meters and will be running her first national outdoor meet. One of the best young distance runners in the nation, Huddle led Notre Dame to a third-place finish at the ’02 NCAA cross country championship. She moved to the 3,000 meters for the indoor season and qualified for the indoor meet, finishing ninth in 9:20.30. For the 2003 outdoor season, Huddle decided to concentrate on the 5,000 meters and made an immediate impact at the Mt. SAC Relays. Running in the invitational 5,000 meters, Huddle took fifth place in 15:36.95 and set the U.S. Junior Record in the process. Using that great run as motivation, Huddle has been unbeatable since. She easily won the BIG EAST 5,000 meters in 15:58.51 (her closest competitor was seven seconds behind). She posted her second-straight 5,000-meter victory at the Mideast Regional, finishing first in 16:12.81. Huddle will enter the NCAA meet ranked third in the 5,000 meters (15:36.95), behind Stanford’s Lauren Fleshman (15:23.94) and Colorado’s Sara Gorton (15:24.97).
Jennifer Handley (Barrie, Ont.) – Handley has stepped up in her final year and earned a spot in the women’s 5,000-meter field. She will be making her second-straight NCAA outdoor appearance after competing in the 5,000 meters last year (she finished 18th in the field). Handley has been a valuable member of both the Irish track and field and cross country teams during her career. She competed in the 5,000 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays (16:55.03) and was the runner-up in the 10,000 meters at this season’s BIG EAST outdoor meet (35:54.96). Displaying her toughness, guts and endurance, Handley came back the next day at the BIG EAST meet and finished fourth in the 5,000 meters.
Lauren King (Toronto, Ont.) – Lauren King has followed up a solid rookie season a year ago by dominating performances in the middle distance lane during the 2003 season. She began the year as a key cog on the Irish women’s cross country team which finished third at the 2002 NCAA Championship. She earned All-America honors on the team and became the first women’s runner to win the BIG EAST Conference individual cross country title. Moving to middle distance for the track season, Lauren King finished seventh in the finals of the mile at the NCAA indoor meet in Fayetteville to earn her first track All-America honor. She also won two BIG EAST track titles this season, taking first in the mile and the DMR. King ended up second in the BIG EAST outdoor meet in the 1,500 meters. The Toronto, Ont., native will enter the NCAA Championship ranked fifth in the 1,500 meters with a 4:14.72 season-best effort. She is behind Northern Arizona’s Johanna Nilsson (4:10.72), Mississippi State’s Tiffany McWilliams (4:12.18), UCLA’s Lena Nilsson (4:13.21) and Arkansas’ Christin Wurth (4:14.54). Lauren King finished fifth in the 1,500 meters at the Mideast Regional (4:19.02).
Tameisha King (Mableton, Ga.) – A perennial contender for outdoor long jump All-America honors, Tameisha King will be appearing in her final NCAA Championship as a member of the Irish team. In addition to being the second-best long jumper in the field (with a 6.61m effort, behind Elva Goulbourne from Auburn with 6.83m) – Tameisha King is also a member of Notre Dame’s 4×100-meter relay team which will appear in the championship. Tameisha King will be looking for her third outdoor All-America finish in the long jump after finishing seventh last year (20-8 1/2) and taking ninth in 2000 (20-5 1/4).
One of the most valuable and consistent performers on Notre Dame’s team during her career, Tameisha King broke through for her first indoor All-America at this season’s NCAA indoor meet. She also competes in the 4×100 relay, the 100 meters and the 100-meter hurdles during the outdoor season. As a member of the women’s 4×100-meter relay last season, she helped the team finish 10th at the NCAA Championship with a 44.67 effort. Tameisha King will hope to improve that effort at the NCAA Championship – as she will compete in both the long jump and 4×100-meter relay.
Stacey Cowan (Ferndale, Wash.) – Cowan had an immediate impact on Notre Dame’s roster this season. A multi-event performer, she finished fourth in the women’s pentathlon at the BIG EAST indoor meet and earned all-BIG EAST honors in the heptathlon (4,675 pts.) at the league’s outdoor meet. It is in the high jump, however, that the rookie will be competing at the NCAA meet. She emerged as a contender in the high jump late in the indoor season. She finished fourth at the BIG EAST indoor meet (1.73m), just missing out on all-BIG EAST honors. Cowan continued her solid performances at the Alex Wilson Invitational (finishing third) and broke through for a victory at the Baldy Castillo (1.75m) to begin the outdoor season. She followed up with a third-place effort at the Tom Botts Invitational and finished fifth in the high jump at the Mt. SAC Relays. Cowan followed by stepping up in the in the Mideast Regional, winning a jump-off to finish fourth an assure a spot in the NCAA Championship. She is the 27th-ranked entrant in the field with a 1.75m clearance. Georgia Tech’s Chaunte Howard is first with a 1.89m effort.
Irish women’s relay teams – Notre Dame sprint/speed coach John Millar has developed his women’s sprint group into one of the top relay producing units in the nation. Both the 4×100 and 4×400 attended last season’s NCAA outdoor championship in Baton Rouge, La., with the 4×400 team eventually earning All-America honors. The Irish have repeated that feat in 2003. The 4×100 team of Tameisha King, Ayesha Boyd, Kymia Loveand Kristen Dodd finished seventh at the highly-competitive Mideast Regional (45.76), but their season-best time of 44.73 from the Baldy Castillo Invitational landed them in the NCAA Championship. The 4×100 team (with Tanya Cheatham in Tameisha King’s spot) finished third at the BIG EAST outdoor meet – breaking a string of two consecutive league titles by the Irish 4×100 squad. Notre Dame’s 4×400 team features 400-meter specialist Love, along with Boyd, Dodd and 400-meter hurdle competitor Tiffany Gunn. Gunn and Love both qualified for, and competed in, the Mideast Regional in the 400 meters. The 4×400 team which qualified for the NCAA outdoor meet a year ago featured Notre Dame’s 400-meter school-record holder Liz Grow on the team and the squad finished fifth in 3:32.12. This year, the Irish 4×400 team ran a season-best 3:37.58 at the Mt. SAC Relays. They enter the NCAA Championship ranked 19th.
NCAA Outdoor Championship results: Full results from each day of competition will be available on the official meet site http://www.hornetsports.com/ncaa/results.asp. Daily recaps of Notre Dame athlete performances will be available on www.und.com.
— ND —