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Track And Field Has A Last Chance At NCAA Berths During Alex Wilson Invite

March 4, 2004

The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s track and field teams make their final appearance at home during the indoor season this weekend, as the teams play host to the 2004 Alex Wilson Invitational. One of eight meets across the country to offer competitors a last chance to qualify, or improve their qualification efforts, for the NCAA Championship in Fayetteville, Ark., on March 12 and 13.

Alex Wilson:

A two-time Olympian for Canada, Alex Wilson coached the Notre Dame track and field team for 23 years, helping his team finish in the national top 10 eleven times. He also led the 1957 cross country team to the National Championship. A Canadian Track Hall of Fame member, Wilson was elected to the Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame for his contributions as a track coach in the United States.

Wilson also was honored as the national coach of the year by the NCAA Cross Country Coaches Association in 1972 and the Alex Wilson Invitational is held at Notre Dame every year to honor the coach who served at Notre dame from 1950-1972. The Alex Wilson 800 meters, which is a featured race during this weekend’s meet, is named for Wilson – who won a silver medal in the 800 meters at the 1932 Olympic Games.

Wilson died on Dec. 10, 1994, at the age of 87.

Attending the meet this weekend?

Notre Dame track and field home indoor meets are held in the Loftus Sports Center on the far east side of campus between Juniper (west) and Ivy (east) roads. The Loftus Center is north of Cartier Field (outdoor football practice facility) and Moose Krause Stadium (the outdoor track and lacrosse facility), northwest of the Eck indoor tennis facility and northeast of the Joyce Center.

Due to construction for the Guglielmino Family Athletics Complex, parking and access to the Loftus Sports Center has changed dramatically.

Spectators and officials are required to park in the Joyce Center (Notre Dame’s double-domed building across the street from Notre Dame Stadium) C1 lot, directly south of the JACC. Access to the parking lot is found from Edison Road off SR 23 (from the east) or Angela Boulevard off US 933 (from the west). Be prepared for a long walk to the Loftus Sports Center – which can be accessed directly north of Moose Krause Stadium (the outdoor track).

Admission to all Notre Dame home track and field events is free. Media and visiting SIDs do not require a credential for access to meets.

Who will represent Notre Dame in the National Championship meet?

While hundreds of student-athletes will enter the Alex Wilson Invitational pursuing a qualifying time for the NCAA Championship next weekend, the Irish boast several competitors that have already put themselves in position to represent Notre Dame at the national meet.

Sophomore Molly Huddle capped a great rookie season last year by winning the U.S. Junior 3,000-meter title in record time. She has continued to add to her impressive resume this season, posting two times among the top five in the country as of March 4. Her 9:08.60 effort in the 3,000 meters at the Meyo Invitational is currently ranked fourth in the nation, while her BIG EAST Championship effort in the 5,000 meters two weeks ago (15:55.68) is second on the descending list.

Huddle also helped the women’s distance medley relay team post the fourth-fastest time in the nation this season (11:07.94) at the Meyo Invitational. Huddle’s spot in the DMR team will be filled by another Irish runner at the NCAA Championship.

Sophomore Stacey Cowan pushed herself into 12th in the nation in the high jump, clearing 5-11 1/2 (1.82m) at the BIG EAST Championship. She will compete this weekend looking to improve her height, but that 1.82m effort should put her in a second straight NCAA Championship (she finished tied for 14th at the outdoor meet in 2003).

Junior Lauren King is hoping to repeat her All-America effort in the mile run from a year ago. King finished seventh overall last season, and her season-best effort of 4:42.98 is ranked 15th in the nation for 2004.

On the men’s side, junior Selim Nurudeen has put himself in position to appear in his first NCAA Championship. Now a three-time BIG EAST hurdle champion (two 110-meter outdoor, a recent 60-meter indoor), Nurudeen improved his season-best effort in the 60-meter hurdles to 7.78 at the BIG EAST meet, which is ranked 10th in NCAA Division I. Nurudeen will become the first Irish men’s hurdler to appear in an NCAA Championship meet since Errol Williams competed in the 55-meter hurdles in 1998.

Quick recap of the BIG EAST Championship:

Both the men’s and women’s teams finished second at the 2004 BIG EAST Indoor Championship in Syracuse, N.Y., on Feb. 21 and 22. The meet featured seven BIG EAST Champions for the Irish – the 4×400-meter relay team of senior Kristen Dodd, junior Tiffany Gunn, sophomore Tricia Floyd and freshman Okechi Ogbuokiri, Molly Huddle in the 5,000 meters, Lauren King’s repeat victory in the mile and Selim Nurudeen’s win in the 60-meter hurdles.

A number of other Irish athletes came very close to BIG EAST titles by finishing in the top three and earning all-BIG EAST accolades.

Sophomore Stacey Cowan finished second in the high jump – earning the second all-conference honor of her career after taking third in the heptathlon last season.

Senior Kristen Dodd took second in the 400 meters, running a solid time of 54.46 – which is ranked 43rd in the country.

Junior Tiffany Gunn had a great meet, as she was part of the winning 4×400-meter relay team and also finished fourth in the 500 meters and 60-meter hurdles.

In addition to Molly Huddle winning the 5,000 meters, she finished third in the 3,000 meters – giving her a preview of the challenge she will face by running both events at the NCAA Championship.

Senior Megan Johnson took home two all-BIG EAST honors, finishing second in the indoor mile and taking second as part of the distance medley relay. Johnson was a member of the championship DMR team in 2003.

Senior Juan Alba enjoyed a great final indoor meet in his career, earning all-BIG EAST honors for the second time in his four years with the Irish. Alba finished second with a personal-best toss of 18.06m.

Freshman Geoffrey Bennett, who might have been lost during the season in the shadow of Nurudeen in the hurdles – made sure that Irish fans will remember his name the rest of the season. Bennett stepped up to finish third in the 60-meter indoor hurdles, claiming the first all-conference honor of his career.

Freshman Kurt Benninger almost broke through for his first BIG EAST title in his first conference meet. Benninger took second in the mile, followed closely by teammate Eric Morrison. Both Bennninger and Morrison are ranked in the top 30 nationally for the mile run and will hope to improve their times this weekend at the Alex Wilson Invitational.

Junior Dwight Ellick, the starting cornerback for the Irish football team in 2003, returned to the track after missing the 2003 campaign with an injury. Ellick qualified for the BIG EAST meet and finished third in the 200 meters, earning his second all-conference track honor (also finished third in 2002).

Senior Godwin Mbagwu, the 2003 BIG EAST outdoor triple jump champion, just missed out on his second league title in the indoor triple jump two weeks ago. Mbagwu finished second to earn his third all-conference certificate.

The men’s 4×400-meter relay team finished second at the BIG EAST indoor meet, made up of Selim Nurudeen, Ryan Postel, Trevor McClain-Duer and Jordan Powell. Any combination of Irish relay runners might make a run at an NCAA qualification time at the Alex Wilson.

Sophomore Kaleb Van Ort capped his great second indoor season, earning two all-BIG EAST honors. Van Ort finished second in the 5,000 meters, then third in the 3,000 meters. The all-conference honors are the first of Van Ort’s career at Notre Dame.

Order of events for the Alex Wilson Invitational:

Here is a TENTATIVE order of events for this weekend’s meet. The time schedule could be changed at any time.

2004 Alex Wilson Invitational

TENTATIVE Order of Events

Friday, March 5

Time, Event

6:00 p.m. Men’s Weight Throw (Women follow)

6:00 p.m. Women’s Long Jump (Men follow)

6:00 p.m. Women’s Pole Vault

7:00 p.m. Women’s High Jump

7:00 p.m. Women’s 5,000 meters

7:20 p.m. Men’s 5,000 meters

8:00 p.m. Women’s Distance Medley Relay

8:15 p.m. Men’s Distance Medley Relay

Saturday, March 6

Time, Event

10:30 a.m. Women’s Triple Jump (Men follow)

11:00 a.m. Women’s Shot Put (Men follow)

12:00 p.m. Men’s Pole Vault

12:00 p.m. Men’s High Jump

12:00 p.m. Women’s 60-meter hurdles – trials

12:10 p.m. Men’s 60-meter hurdles – trials

12:20 p.m. Women’s 60 meters – trials

12:25 p.m. Men’s 60 meters – trials

12:35 p.m. Women’s 3,000 meters

12:50 p.m. Men’s 3,000 meters

1:05 p.m. Women’s 60-meter hurdles – finals

1:10 p.m. Men’s 60-meter hurdles – finals

1:20 p.m. Women’s 60 meters – finals

1:25 p.m. Men’s 60 meters – finals

1:35 p.m. The Alex Wilson 800 meters

1:45 p.m. Women’s 400 meters (sections against time)

1:50 p.m. Men’s 400 meters (sections against time)

2:10 p.m. Women’s 800 meters (sections against time)

2:25 p.m. Men’s 800 meters (sections against time)

2:45 p.m. Women’s 200 meters (sections against time)

2:50 p.m. Men’s 200 meters (sections against time)

3:00 p.m. Women’s Mile

3:15 p.m. Men’s Mile

3:30 p.m. Men’s 4×400-meter relay

3:40 p.m. Women’s 4×400-meter relay