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Track and Field Gets Final Chance For Regional Qualifiers At Georgia Tech This Weekend

May 12, 2004

The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s track and field teams have completed what could be deemed as the ‘regular season’ and are in ‘postseason play’ for the rest of the year. With the BIG EAST Championship behind them (the men won their second straight team title, while the women finished third), the Irish turn their eyes toward the NCAA regional qualifying marks.

Last season the NCAA began to hold regional qualifying meets for the outdoor season. Instead of reaching a standard qualification to ensure a spot in the NCAA Championship meet, an athlete must first qualify for the regional meets. A finish in the top three of the regional meet assures a spot in the national championship competition, with a set number of spots filled in by at-large qualifiers.

Notre Dame is in the highly competitive Mid-East Regional, with traditional track and field powers LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State just a few of the teams the Irish will have to go up against.

Entering the Georgia Tech Invitational this weekend (the final chance at qualifying, or improving qualifying marks or times), Notre Dame has 20 regional qualifiers combined from its men’s and women’s teams and two relays (the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter).

Most of the regional qualifiers, plus some that are close to qualifying for the regional meet, will make the trip to Atlanta, Ga., this weekend (save for any seniors, who will attend graduation on campus).

Out of Notre Dame’s 20 qualifiers, there are a number of competitors who will be in the running for moving on to the NCAA Championship meet in Austin, Texas, on June 9-12. Sophomore Molly Huddle will be the favorite to repeat her 5,000-meter championship from her rookie season, junior Selim Nurudeen is looking to qualify for his second national meet of the season and sophomore Ryan Postel is in contention to make the 400-meter field.

Huddle broke her own school record in the 5,000 meters earlier this season at the Mt. SAC Relays, running 15:32.55. That effort is the best on the Mid-East Regional descending order list and third nationally – behind Providence’s Kim Smith (15:09.72). Classmate Stephanie Madia also is ranked nationally in the 5,000 meters, with her 16:34.48 time appearing at 45th on the national list. Madia is eighth on the Mid-East regional list – showing a possibility of moving up to qualify for the national meet.

Selim Nurudeen has been enjoying his best season with the Irish in 2004, winning the BIG EAST 60-meter and 110-meter hurdle championships. Now a four-time BIG EAST Champion, Nurudeen is looking to make the next step and earn All-America honors in the sprint hurdles. He qualified for his first national meet during the indoor season and hopes to make the outdoor season equally productive. Nurudeen ran 13.91 in the 110-meter hurdles at the BIG EAST Championship, a time which is ranked 25th nationally and 10th in the Mid-East region.

Similar to Nurdueen, Postel has enjoyed a break out season for Notre Dame in 2004. The BIG EAST outdoor 400-meter champion, Postel ran 46.63 at the league meet. That time is ranked 30th in the nation and ninth in the region. Postel also is a key member of the 4×400-meter team, which has already assured itself a spot on the NCAA regional with a 3:10.52. That effort is the fourth-fastest 4×400-meter relay ever run at Notre Dame, with Postel as the anchor, preceded by Nurudeen, Jordan Powell and Trevor McClain-Duer.

Another Irish athlete to keep an eye on is senior Godwin Mbagwu (who will not compete this weekend due to graduation). Mbagwu ripped off a 7.68m long jump at the BIG EAST outdoor meet, which is currently the 14th-best in the nation.

Notre Dame’s other regional qualifiers:

Junior Tiffany Gunn – 400-meter hurdles: Gunn has run 1:00.52 this season and is 16th on the regional descending order list.

Junior Kerry Meagher – 1,5000 meters: Another Irish athlete enjoying a break out season, Meagher is a three-time all-BIG EAST performer this season (cross country, indoor track, outdoor track) and earned her first All-America honor in the indoor mile. She is hoping to make it back to the national meet during the outdoor season, running the 1,500 meters. Her season-best effort of 4:19.66 is sixth on the regional list.

Sophomore Petra Dankova – triple jump: Dankova is poised to make her second consecutive NCAA regional appearance in the triple jump, boasting a season-best leap of 12.65m

Sophomore Stacey Cowan and senior Jennifer Kearney – high jump: Cowan earned an at-large berth to the NCAA outdoor meet as a freshman last season and has shown the ability to step up at the big meets. Kearney will be making her first regional appearance this season, clearing 1.73m at the BIG EAST outdoor meet.

Sophomore Laura Huarte – pole vault: Huarte was a late arrival in the outdoor season, missing some early-season meets with an injury. She burst on the scene, however, clearing 3.75m at the Purdue Invitational and BIG EAST Championship to qualify for the regional meet. She is 15th on the regional descending order list.

Sophomore Kate Duman – javelin: Duman broke her own school record in the javelin this season with a season-best 43.07m measurement at the Tom Botts Invitational. That mark puts her 16th on the regional list.

Women’s 4×400-meter relay: Gunn, senior Kristen Dodd, senior Ayesha Boyd and junior Tricia Floyd ran 3:40.04 at the Mt. SAC Relays on March 18 to qualify for the NCAA regional meet. Their time is currently ranked 12th in the field.

Sophomore Thomas Chamney – 800 meters: Chamney has been improving his 800-meter time during the entire 2004 outdoor season, running a 1:50.24 time at the BIG EAST meet. He is currently 28th on the regional list, but is looking to move up at Georgia Tech this weekend.

The 1,500-meter group: The Irish men have a talented group of middle distance runners who have specialized in the 1,500 meters this season. Freshman Kurt Benninger, senior Kevin Somok and junior Eric Morrison are all qualified for the regional meet and will run this weekend. Somok will fly back to campus immediately after his race to participate in graduation. Benninger (3:45.21) is 13th on the regional list, followed by Somok (3:46.22) and Morrison (3:47.38).

Notre Dame competitors this weekend:

Friday, May 14 – Derek Goguen, Kate Duman (javelin), Molly Huddle, Lauren King, Stephanie Madia, Kerry Meagher (1,500 meters), Vinnie Ambrico, Kurt Benninger, Eric Morrison, Kevin Somok (1,500 meters), Ryan Johnson (3,000-meter steeplechase). Saturday, May 15 – Chip Roberts (hammer throw), Stacey Cowan (high jump), Meghan Horn (discus), Chris Staron (high jump), Selim Nurudeen (110-meter hurdles), Lauren King, Kerry Meagher, Molly Huddle, Stephanie Madia, Thomas Chamney (800 meters), Tricia Floyd, Ryan Postel, Trevor McClain-Duer, Jordan Powell (400 meters), Tiffany Gunn (400-meter hurdles) and Maryann Erigha (200 meters).