June 2, 2004
The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s track and field teams have ended up with six qualifiers for the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship. The meet organizers released the final list of accepted qualifiers into the competition late Monday, with three women and three men on the list from Notre Dame. Freshman Kurt Benninger (1,500 meters), junior Selim Nurudeen (110-meter hurdles) and senior Kevin Somok (1,500 meters) will represent the men’s team. Sophomore Molly Huddle (5,000 meters), sophomore Stephanie Madia (5,000 meters) and junior Kerry Meagher (1,500 meters) will represent the women’s team.
Qualifying for the NCAA Championship comes down to two factors – each individual finish at the NCAA regional meet (a top-five finish earns an automatic berth) and a season-best time (posting one of the top times in the nation will earn you an invitation to the meet). Benninger, Meagher, Huddle and Madia were all automatic qualifiers by finishing in the top five of their events at the regional meet. Somok and Nurudeen earned their way into the field by posting times among the best in the country this season.
Breaking down Notre Dame’s qualifiers:
Sophomore Molly Huddle:
Out of all of Notre Dame’s qualifiers, sophomore Molly Huddle demands the most attention. Already one of the greatest distance runners in school history – even before completing her second full season – Huddle is a contender for the 5,000-meter national title.
Huddle will enter the preliminaries of the 5,000 meters on Wednesday, June 9 (9:35 p.m.) with the second-best time in the field. The Elmira, N.Y., native ran 15:32.55 this season and also defended her NCAA Mideast Regional 5,000-meter title.
What has Huddle accomplished so far in 2004? She won the BIG EAST indoor 5,000 meter championship, while earning all-conference honors in the indoor 3,000 meters. She moved on to finish third in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Championship and added a seventh-place effort in the 3,000 meters – pushing her All-America total to six. During the outdoor season, Huddle won the BIG EAST 5,000 meter championship (she owns four BIG EAST trophies) and showed her range by scoring at the conference meet in the 1,500 meters.
Huddle owns the school records in the indoor 3,000 meters (9:08.60), indoor 5,000 meters (15:57.22), DMR (11:07.94) and outdoor 5,000 meters (15:32.55).
Sophomore Stephanie Madia:
Madia will run with her teammate Molly Huddle in the 5,000 meters, owning the 23rd-best time in the field (16:34.48). She will be making her first individual NCAA track and field appearance next week and will face a strong challenge – the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Championship is actually run twice – with preliminaries on Wednesday, June 9, at 9:35 p.m. and the finals on Saturday, June 12, at 8:55 p.m.
Madia missed the 2004 indoor season with an injury but has more than made up for lost time during the outdoor schedule. She won both the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters at Notre Dame’s Spring Opener, then finished 17th in an elite 5,000-meter field at the Mt. SAC Relays (where she posted her season-best time). Madia also earned all-BIG EAST honors in the 5,000 meters by finishing third and recently took sixth in the event at the NCAA Mideast Regional.
Junior Kerry Meagher:
Meagher continues her break out junior season by qualifying for her third NCAA meet of the school year (along with Madia and Huddle, who were all a part of Notre Dame’s 10th-place NCAA cross country team). She earned All-America track and field honors at the NCAA indoor meet, finishing seventh in 4:40.67 (she was also on the women’s DMR team which finished 10th at the NCAA indoor meet).
Concentrating on the 1,500 meters for the outdoor season, Meagher ran 4:16.88 at the Georgia Tech Invitational – the fourth-fastest time in school history and a spectacular personal-best for the Allentown, Pa., native. She finished third in the 1,500 meters at the BIG EAST outdoor meet and fourth at the NCAA Mideast Regional (4:18.16).
The women’s 1,500 meters begin Thursday, June 10, at 7:55 p.m. with the preliminaries. The finals are scheduled for Saturday, June 12, at 7:20 p.m. Meagher will enter the competition with the ninth-best time in the field and is a strong contender for All-America honors (top eight finish).
Junior Selim Nurudeen:
Nurudeen placed himself in the NCAA Championship field by running one of the top times in the nation for the 110-meter hurdles during last weekend’s NCAA Mideast Regional. In the preliminaries, Nurudeen posted a blistering 13.57 – the sixth-best time in the nation this season.
In a historical context, Nurudeen’s time is the third fastest in school history. Errol Williams ran 13.53 at the 1998 NCAA Championship, while Tom McMannon posted a 13.50 effort back in 1971.
Nurudeen’s appearance in the NCAA outdoor championship (110-meter prelims are Wednesday, June 9 at 6:20 p.m., followed by semifinals at 8:00 p.m. that same day, finals are Friday, June 11 at 9:00 p.m.) caps an outstanding third season for the Friendswood, Texas, native. He pushed his BIG EAST 110-meter hurdle win streak to three this season, while also adding his first 60-meter hurdle title during the indoor season.
His immense talent was on display during the BIG EAST outdoor meet, when he won the 110-meter hurdle title, finished second in the 200 meters (running a 21.18 in the prelims) and helped both the 4×100 team and 4×400 team finish second in the conference.
Next week will also mark Nurudeen’s second appearance at an NCAA Championship meet this season. He finished 14th in the 60-meter hurdles at the indoor meet back in March.
Freshman Kurt Benninger:
Benninger was a key member of Notre Dame’s cross country team this past fall, but the Chepstow, Ontario, native has really established a name for himself during the 2004 track and field season. After finishing second in the BIG EAST indoor mile (4:08.74, though he ran a 4:03.67 at the Meyo Invitational), Benninger moved on to the 1,500 meters during the outdoor season. He posted another runner-up finish at the BIG EAST outdoor meet, but ran a great 3:41.95 at the Georgia Tech Invitational – the second-fastest time in school history (Chuck Aragon, 1981, 3:38.40).
Benninger recently finished fifth at the NCAA Mideast Regional in the 1,500 meters (3:51.34) and will be making his first NCAA Championship individual appearances next week. The men’s 1,500-meter prelims are Thursday, June 10, at 8:15 p.m. with the finals Saturday, June 12, at 7:30 p.m. He is ranked 13th in the 26-man field.
Senior Kevin Somok:
It has been a great final two months at Notre Dame for Somok. Making the trip to the Georgia Tech Invitational for the 1,500 meters, he ran a personal-best 3:42.26 (the fourth-best time in school history) to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship. After that great run, Somok jumped on a plane to make it back for the Notre Dame graduation ceremony.
One of the most versatile middle distance runners for Notre Dame over his career, Somok will cap his four years with his first NCAA track and field individual appearance next week in the 1,500 meters. Somok missed out on the finals of the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Mideast Regional by an eyelash, running 3:52.19 (the final qualifier was 3:52.16) and finished 13th overall. He is ranked 14th in the 26-man field and will get the benefit of running with teammate Kurt Benninger, the 13th-ranked runner in the competition.
Each Notre Dame individual will be tracked next week and a complete recap of each day’s events will be posted on www.und.com. The official championship website can be found at: http://texassports.com/mainpages/tk_pages/2003_04/ncaa/index.html, while additional information can be accessed at www.ncaasports.com.