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Track And Field Sends Eight Competitors To NCAA Outdoor Championship

May 24, 2002

The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s track and field teams continued to take a step forward toward national prominence this season. The women’s team captured their first-ever BIG EAST Championship team title at this season’s indoor meet and the men’s distance group solidified its standing as one of the best in the country. The 2001-02 track and field season is coming to an end, but both Irish teams will be well represented at next week’s NCAA Championship in Baton Rouge, La. (May 29 – June 1).

The Irish women will send a record six competitors to the NCAA outdoor meet this season. Previously, the most the women’s team had sent to an NCAA meet in the same year were two different competitors (in 1999 and 2000).

This season, an exceptionally strong sprint group has led the way. Led by two-time All-American senior Liz Grow, the Irish have the ability to score a number of team points in the 400 meters and both sprint relays.

Grow will enter the meet next week with the sixth-best time in the 400 field. Her 52.05 time recorded at this year’s BIG EAST outdoor meet is both a personal best and school record. Grow became the first Irish women’s sprinter to earn All-America honors at last season’s NCAA indoor meet, finishing eighth. She moved up to fourth at the indoor meet in 2002, earning the highest-ever finish by a Notre Dame female athlete at the NCAA track and field level.

Making her third appearance at the NCAA outdoor meet in the 400 meters, Grow is looking for her first outdoor All-America honor. The 400 meters will not be her only chance at reaching that goal. Grow will join her fellow sprinters on both the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.

The Irish women’s sprint corps has improved dramatically this season, led by Notre Dame speed coach John Millar. The appearance by both relays this season marks the first spots any Irish women’s relay has earned at the outdoor championship, and just the second and third overall (the 4×400 relay team finished ninth at this year’s NCAA indoor competition).

The 4×100 team of Tameisha King, Grow, Ayesha Boyd and Kymia Love enters the meet next week with the ninth-best time (44.30), behind LSU, USC, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, TCU and Illinois, respectively.

Moving up to the 4×400 event, the Irish team changes a bit but their place in the field is the same. The group of Boyd, Kristen Dodd, Love and Grow are ninth in the field (3:34.46), behind South Carolina, Texas, UCLA, USC, Miami (Fla.), Tennessee, Georgia and Seton Hall. The Irish faced both Seton Hall and Miami at this season’s BIG EAST outdoor meet, finishing fourth behind the Hurricanes (first) and Pirates (third).

Tameisha King will join Grow by competing in multiple events at the NCAA Championship. T. King has regained her long jump form from two years ago, when she was a freshman All-American and competed for the U.S. Junior National Track and Field team. The junior is in position for All-America honor once again, jumping 6.50m at last weekend’s Georgia Tech Invitational to put her seventh in the field for next week.

Freshman distance standout Lauren King also has qualified for the 2002 NCAA Outdoor Championship, becoming the first Irish rookie runner to appear in three NCAA Championship events in her first season. She earned All-America honors at the 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championships (27th) and followed up with an impressive performance in the indoor mile at the national meet (missing out on advancing to the finals by one spot). L. King will run the 1500 meters next week, entering the field with the sixth-best time (4:17.33 – school record).

The men’s team will send two competitors familiar with national competition into action next week. Senior distance all-stars Ryan Shay and Luke Watson will represent the Irish, both in two different events, at the NCAA outdoor meet.

Shay has his eyes set on becoming the first Notre Dame repeat NCAA individual champion since Greg Rice in 1937 and 1939 (two miles). Easily distancing the field to win the 10,000 meters last season, Shay returns in 2002 with the third-best time in the field (28:39.43). His competition will be Tom McArdle from Dartmouth (28:18.21) and Boaz Cheboiwoth (the 2001 NCAA Cross Country individual champion) from Eastern Michigan. Shay recorded his 10,000-meter time very early in the season (March 29) and has focused much of the late season on training for the national 10,000 meter race. Shay easily lapped the field at the BIG EAST outdoor meet, claiming his third consecutive conference 10,000-meter title.

One of the most decorated athletes ever to compete at Notre Dame, Shay has earned All-America honors nine times in his career. He has qualified for the 10,000 meters every season he has competed in track and field at Notre Dame, making him the first-ever Irish athlete to appear in four-straight NCAA track and field championships. He finished seventh in 1999 and 2000, in additon to claiming the title last season.

Shay will not be done with competition at the meet when the 10,000 meters is completed. He also will be one of the favorites in the 5,000 meters. He enters the field with the sixth-best time (13:35.08 – school record) and earned All-America honors at the NCAA indoor meet in the same event. The 5,000 meters does take place after the 10,000 race, so fatigue could play a factor.

Fortunately Shay will not be alone in the 5,000 field. Watson will be able to run alongside his teammate with the 11th-best time (13:44.92) in the field. The 2002 BIG EAST Outdoor Championship Most Outstanding Track Performer (with victories in both the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000 meters), Watson will be looking for his fourth career All-America honor at next week’s meet (cross country 2000, 2001 and distance medley relay, 2000). He will have two chances to earn that accolade, as he will run both the 5,000 meters and steeplechase. Watson will be among the favorites in the steeplechase, carrying the fourth-fastest qualifying time (8:37.61) into the race.

Schedule of Events (in which Notre Dame will compete) at the NCAA Championship:

Wednesday, May 29

6:45 p.m. – Women’s 4×100 Relay Prelims

8:15 p.m. – Men’s 3,000-meter Steeplechase Prelims

Thursday, May 30

6:35 p.m. – Women’s 400 meters Prelims

7:30 p.m. – Women’s Long Jump Trials and Finals

8:00 p.m. – Women’s 1,500 meters Prelims

8:35 p.m. – Women’s 4×400 Relay Prelims

9:15 p.m. – Men’s 10,000 meters Finals

Friday, May 31

7:10 p.m. – Women’s 4×100 Relay Final

8:45 p.m. – Men’s 3,000-meter Steeplechase Final

Saturday, June 1

7:30 p.m. – Women’s 400 meters Final

8:10 p.m. – Women’s 1,500 meters Final

8:40 p.m. – Men’s 5,000 meters Final

9:35 p.m. – Women’s 4×400 Relay Final