Dec. 8, 2003

The University of Notre Dame track and field/cross country program has announced six student-athletes have signed national letters of intent to enroll at the University and compete for the Fighting Irish next fall.

Domenique Manning (hurdles), Sunni Olding (cross country/distance), Crysta Swayzer (sprints), Jake Watson (cross country/distance), Austin Wechter (hurdles) and Kylee Zent (throws) will be members of the Class of 2008.

Domenique Manning, 5-5, hurdles/sprints, Riverside, Calif., John W. North H.S.

Manning hails from Riverside, Calif., (John W. North H.S.) and was a California state finalist and top three finisher at the state meet over last three seasons. She compiled an impressive list of accomplishments in 2003, including the 2003 National Junior Olympic 100-meter hurdle title and finished third at the ’03 World Youth Championships in the same event.

“Domenique is one of the top five hurdlers in the country,” Notre Dame sprint/hurdle coach John Millar says.

“She will certainly fill a void for the program in the hurdles and will contribute on our relay teams as well.”

Sunni Olding, 5-10, cross country/distance, Minster, Ohio, Minster H.S.

Sunni Olding will prove to be an immediate contributor on Notre Dame’s highly-rated women’s cross country team as well as a factor in middle distance during the track and field season.

“Sunni is a talented athlete who can come in and contribute to our success right away,” head women’s cross country coach Tim Connelly says.

“She finished 10th at the FootLocker meet last season and has qualified for the 2004 meet as well. Sunni will be a candidate for our top seven cross country runners next season.”

Olding is from Minster, Ohio, (Minster H.S.) and is ranked number one in the nation in the two-mile run by Track and Field News (10:25.82). She won the Ohio Division III state championship in both the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters in 2003. A 4.0 student, Olding also is a three-time Ohio state champion in cross country.

Crysta Swayzer, 5-6, sprints, Houston, Texas, Westbury Senior H.S.

In addition to Manning, Crysta Swayzer will join Millar’s women’s hurdle/sprint group next season. From Westbury Senior H.S. in Houston, Texas, Swayzer finished third in the 2003 Texas state meet in the 400 meters and is a member of the National Junior Olympic 4×400-meter relay team.

“Crysta is among the top 10 in the nation for the quarter mile,” Millar says.

“She will helps us in all of our sprints, from the 100 (meters) to the 400 (meters) and will be a great addition to our relay teams.”

Jake Watson, 6-0, cross country/distance, Stillwater, Minn., Stillwater Area H.S.

Head cross country and track and field coach Joe Piane is excited to have another Watson on his squad for the next four years. Jake Watson from Stillwater, Minn., follows in the footsteps of his older brother, Luke, a 2003 graduate and one of the top cross country/distance runners in Notre Dame history.

“At this point in his career Jake’s times are comparable to his brother’s at the same point,” Piane says.

“He also brings a great attitude and is very excited about being part of the Irish.”

Watson is a four-time all-conference and three-time all-state performer in cross country and finished third at the 2003 Minnesota state meet. In track and field he is a two-time all-state performer and conference 3,200-meter champion in ’02 and ’03. He holds the Suburban East Conference 3,200-meter record at 9:20.7. Watson is an immediate contender to be among Notre Dame’s top seven cross country runners next season.

Austin Wechter, 5-11, hurdles, Shelby, Ohio, Shelby, H.S.

Wechter is the top rated high school hurdler in the nation and should combine with two-time BIG EAST Champion junior Selim Nurudeen to give the Irish a fearsome hurdle combination for the 2005 season.

“Austin is coming in as the number one hurdler in the nation,” Millar says.

“I think he should be able to develop into one of the top hurdlers in the BIG EAST Conference and at the NCAA Championship level.”

Wechter swept through the Ohio state championship meet in ’03, winning the 300-meter and 110-meter hurdle titles as well as helping the 4×400-meter relay to victory. His 36.69 effort in the 300-meter hurdles was the prep top time in the country for 2003.

Kylee Zent, 5-11, throws, Bridger, Mont., Bridger H.S.

Throws coach B.J. Linnenbrink welcomes the top thrower in Montana into the Irish program next season. Zent has claimed three-straight state titles (two discus, one shot put) since 2001 and owns the state record in the discus (141-3). An outstanding all-around athlete, Zent was also an all-conference performer in volleyball and basketball.

“Kylee adds much needed depth in the women’s throw group,” Linnenbrink says.

“She will have an immediate impact on her arrival and will be a great training partner for (sophomore) Meghan Horn (a U.S. Junior National qualifier last season).”

Zent participated in the U.S. Junior Olympic track meet in Montana during the summer of 2002 and finished first in both the shot put and discus.