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Irish place in bottom half at NCAA meet

Jay Fitzpatrick | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Notre Dame’s promising run ended Monday with a disappointing 19th place finish at the 31-team NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

“I think overall we’re disappointed,” Irish sophomore Patrick Smyth said. “But I think most people are a little bit pissed off, so I think that’ll be good come track season.”

The Irish finished with 495 total points, far back from Colorado, which won the meet with 94 points.

Notre Dame was hoping for a top-10 finish at the NCAA meet, especially after finishing second behind only top-ranked Wisconsin at the Great Lakes Regional Nov. 11. Irish runners encountered a muddy course in Terre Haute that they could not overcome.

“The course was completely saturated and we did the same kind of course last weekend,” Smyth said. “So two weeks in a row of real sloppy course is going to take its toll.”

Another key factor in Notre Dame’s finish was senior Kurt Benninger’s 32:54.4 132nd-place finish in the 10,000-meter race – an unexpected result, since Benninger garnered All-American honors for his finishes in the last two NCAA Championships.

Although Notre Dame’s top runner faltered Monday, Smyth picked up the slack, finishing 36th with a 31:41.7 mark that earned him All-American honors – given to both the top 35 finishers and top 35 American finishers at the Championship.

“I was pretty happy with [my result],” Smyth said. “The course was real muddy today so I think that took its toll on everybody. Some people dealt with it better than others.”

Rounding out the top five for the Irish were junior Jake Watson (33:04.4, 159), freshman Jake Walker (33:09.2, 169) and senior Todd Ptacek (33:15.8, 175).

Despite the disappointing finish, the Irish are confident they can use it as motivation to succeed in the upcoming track season – which starts in just two weeks.

“I think we’re all motivated even more so now to run some quick times in track,” Smyth said.

The Irish women had one representative at the NCAA Championships, junior Sunni Olding, whose time of 22:27.8 was good for 142nd place. Olding received an individual invitational to the Championship because of her sixth-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional.

The Observer could not reach Olding Monday for comment.