May 13, 2006
ATLANTA – The Notre Dame men’s and women’s track & field teams tacked on three more NCAA Mideast Regional qualifying performances during the Georgia Tech Invitational, which wrapped up Saturday night at George Griffin Track in Atlanta. The invitational was the final opportunity for participants to meet qualifying standards for the NCAA regional competitions that will take place at the end of the month. The Irish will have a total of 30 athletes (15 men, 15 women) competing in 19 different events at the NCAA Mideast Regional, slated for May 26-27 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Notre Dame made its biggest mark at the Georgia Tech Invitational in the men’s distance events, including a trio of regional qualifiers in the 800 meters. Junior Thomas Chamney (Tipperary, Ireland/St. Columba’s) finished third in the event with a personal-best time of 1:48.47, also the second-best in the Mideast Region this year and the eighth-fastest in school history. Junior Kurt Benninger (Chepstow, Ontario/Walkerton D.S.S.) competed in the 800 for the first time in his career and made the most of it, winning his heat and placing fourth overall in 1:48.80 to qualify for the Mideast Regional in his third separate event (also the 1,500 and 5,000 meters). Sophomore Adam Currie (Verdun, Quebec/Richelieu Valley) rounded out the qualifying threesome in 10th place with a personal-best time of 1:49.33.
Meanwhile, the Notre Dame men’s 1,600-meter relay squad booked its spot at the Mideast Regional by the narrowest of margins, finishing third at Georgia Tech in a time of 3:09.95 (the third-fastest in school history), a mere five-hundredths of a second (.05) under the regional qualifying mark. Sophomore Austin Wechter (Shelby, Ohio/Shelby) led off the race, followed by sophomore Robert Kueny (Lebanon, Mo./Lebanon), with senior Ryan Postel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) going third and junior Jordan Powell (Springfield, Ill./Calvary Academy) running the anchor leg. It’s the second regional qualifying performance for Wechter (400-meter hurdles) and Postel (200 meters), while Kueny and Powell will join Currie as the three newest Mideast Regional invitees for Notre Dame.
Among the other highlights for the Irish at Georgia Tech were junior Okechi Ogbuokiri (Willingboro, N.J./Willingboro) placing sixth in the women’s 400-meter dash in a season-best time of 53.89 seconds (lowering her regional-qualifying mark), sophomore Sunni Olding (Minster, Ohio/Minster), who ran a season-best 4:29.58 and took eighth in the women’s 1,500-meter run, and junior Todd Ptacek (Benton Harbor, Mich./Lake Michigan Catholic), who chalked up a fourth-place finish in the men’s 1,500 with a personal-best time of 3:49.22.
The Irish will be off for the next two weeks while they prepare for the NCAA Mideast Regional in Knoxville. Besides Benninger, junior Maryann Erigha (Stone Mountain, Ga./Chamblee) has qualified in three events (100, 200, 400 relay), while senior Molly Huddle (Elmira, N.Y./Notre Dame) has two regional qualifying races (1,500 and 5,000), as well as an automatic qualification directly into the NCAA Championships in the 10,000-meter run. Last year, Notre Dame had nine athletes (seven women/two men) in eight events advance from the regional meet to the NCAA Championships, with three — Stephanie Madia (5,000m), Kerry Meagher (1,500m) and Selim Nurudeen (110m hurdles) — going on to earn All-America honors with top-eight finishes in the finals of their respective events.
— ND —