The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Track and Field: Benninger crack record books

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Kurt Benninger always knew in his heart that someday he might have record-breaking potential. Little did he know that that potential would blossom so quickly.

The Irish junior became the first runner in Notre Dame history to record two sub-four-minute miles in his career.

“Going into the meet, I definitely thought that I would be able to break the four-minute barrier,” Benninger said. “I actually thought that I was fit enough to run a few seconds faster, but obviously I am happy with my performance and results.”

Hailing from Chepstaw, Ontario, Canada, Benninger was a member of the Canadian Junior team and he competed in the 2003 Pan Am Games.

Benninger first broke the magic mile barrier at last season’s Meyo Invitational by clocking a 3:58.75, so his record-breaking performance Friday was not entirely unexpected.

“Kurt was especially motivated tonight after he wasn’t invited to [last] Saturday’s Reebok [Indoor Games] in Boston,” Notre Dame coach Joe Piane said.

Saturday’s Reebox Boston Indoor Games featured many of the world’s fastest milers as 11 runners finished the race in under four minutes.

If he had been invited, Benninger might have made it 12.

“He ran with a purpose and really wanted to show those meet organizers what they were missing out on. It may be their loss, but it’s certainly our gain, and we’re very happy with the way things turned out for Kurt this evening.”

The extra motivation certainly paid off, as Benninger turned in what was by far the best performance of the evening. Butler’s Scott Overall stayed even with Benninger for the majority of the mile, but Benninger out-kicked Overall down the stretch to break the four minute barrier. Overall ended up finishing the mile with a time of 4:00.53, just off Benninger’s pace.

Benninger’s accomplishment is made more impressive by the fact that he is one of only three runners in school history to break the four-minute mile barrier. Luke Watson, the school record holder, ran the mile in 3:57.83 at the 2002 Meyo Invitational. The only other Irish runner to crack the barrier was Chuck Aragorn, who accomplished the feat in 1981 at the Illini Invitational.

Benninger has bounced back strong after suffering a season-ending injury last season after the NCAA Indoor Championships. He will look to continue his strong start to the season this weekend as the Irish return to action when they host the Meyo Invitational this weekend.

“I’m really looking forward to running the 3K at the Meyo Invitational,” Benninger said. “The defending national champion will be running, so I am anxious to compete, and I think I am fit enough to win the event.”

The two-day meet begins 5 p.m. Friday in the Loftus Sports Center.