June 8, 2007
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – For the third consecutive year, Notre Dame will have at least three All-America honorees at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, as a trio of Irish distance runners picked up the prestigious award during Friday night’s NCAA action at the A.G. Spanos Sports Complex/Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif. Fifth-year senior Molly Huddle (Elmira, N.Y./Notre Dame) wrapped up her brilliant college career with a third-place finish in the 5,000 meters, collecting her 10th All-America certificate (seven track/three cross country) and breaking former men’s distance star Ryan Shay’s school record for the most career All-America selections by a Notre Dame athlete in any sport. Meanwhile, senior Todd Ptacek (Benton Harbor, Mich./Lake Michigan Catholic) and sophomore Patrick Smyth (Salt Lake City, Utah/Judge Memorial) each claimed their first career All-America honors on the track, competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000 meters, respectively.
Huddle posted her fourth top-four NCAA 5,000-meter finish in as many tries, clocking in at 15:37.65, the fourth-fastest time in school history. The diminutive Irish harrier has put her stamp on the Notre Dame women’s track & field program throughout her career, winning four NCAA Mideast Regional 5,000-meter titles and seven BIG EAST Conference crowns (most-ever by an Irish woman/tied-third overall), while also twice being selected as the BIG EAST Outstanding Outdoor Track Performer (2006 and 2007) and taking home 14 all-BIG EAST plaques (second among Irish women/third overall). In addition, Huddle owns the top seven and eight of the top 10 outdoor 5,000-meter times in school history, as well as the school’s top six and seven of the top eight indoor 3,000-meter marks. She also is the Notre Dame record holder in four events (indoor 3,000m & 5,000m/outdoor 5,000m & 10,000m), the most current school records held by a runner of either gender.
Wake Forest’s Michelle Sikes upset race favorite Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech to win the NCAA 5,000-meter title in the event, breaking the tape in a meet-record 15:16.76 to easily outpace Kipyego (15:24.22), who was aiming for a record-breaking fifth individual national championship this year. Huddle’s third-place showing did pick up six points for Notre Dame in the women’s team standings, with the Irish currently tied for 26th place entering Saturday’s final day of competition.
Meanwhile, Ptacek is in position to carve his own niche in Notre Dame history as the 11th Irish men’s track/cross country athlete to earn All-America and Academic All-AmericaÂ® honors in the same year. The Notre Dame thinclad placed 13th in the steeplechase final in 8:46.78, and was among the top eight American finishers to secure his All-America citation. Ptacek is the first Irish All-American steeplechaser since Luke Watson in 2002, and just the fourth in program history, joining John Cowan (1995) and Jim Kittell (1948). Ptacek was tabbed an Academic All-District selection this past Thursday, with the Academic All-America TeamÂ® released June 25.
Smyth finished ninth in the men’s 5,000-meter final, hitting the line in 13:55.53 and ending up among the top eight U.S. runners to lock up his own All-America honor. Smyth is the first Notre Dame athlete to garner All-America status in the event since Watson in 2003, and the fifth men’s 5,000-meter All-American in school history — the others are Shay (2001), Mike O’Connor (1990) and Dan Garrett (1988).
Senior Kurt Benninger (Chepstow, Ontario/Walkerton D.S.S.) will look to bring home his own All-America certificate when he competes in the men’s 1,500-meter final Saturday at 11:10 a.m. PT (2:10 p.m. ET in South Bend). Benninger can become the first Irish men’s All-American at that distance since Jim Tyler in 1986, should he finish in the top eight of the event. Saturday’s NCAA 1,500 final will be broadcast live to a national television audience on CBS. Fans also can follow Benninger’s progress via the Internet, with live results available on Sacramento State’s official NCAA Championships web site.
— ND —
2007 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
June 8, 2007
Sacramento, Calif. (A.G. Spanos Sports Complex/Hornet Stadium)
NOTRE DAME FINISHERS (* – All-America honoree)
Women’s 5,000-meter final: 3. Molly Huddle (ND)* 15:37.65
Men’s 5,000-meter final: 9. Patrick Smyth (ND)* 13:55.53
Men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase final: 13. Todd Ptacek (ND)* 8:46.78