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Track and Field: Irish qualify for regionals in seven events

Bill Brink | Monday, April 16, 2007

Seven seems to be the lucky number for Notre Dame track and field.The Irish achieved new or improved NCAA Mideast regional qualifying times in seven different events this weekend and garnered 18 new Big East qualifying times. The team split up, sending some athletes to the Mount San Antonio College (SAC) Relays in Walnut, Calif., others to the Azusa Pacific Invitational in Azusa, Calif., and still others to East Lansing, Mich., for the Michigan State Spartan Invitational. Two Irish athletes, sophomore pole vaulter Mary Saxer and sophomore high jumper Blair Majcina, earned their first regional berth this weekend. Majcina finished third at Mount SAC, clearing 6 feet, 10.75 inches.”It’s definitely a step toward something else I’m going for, it’s nice to at least get to regionals,” Majcina said. “My goal is to get to the NCAAs.”At the regionals, Majcina has the opportunity to do so. The top five finishers in each event from each of the four regions advance to the NCAA Championships. That height tied Majcina with his collegiate career best, set in 2006 at the Hillsdale Gina Relays. Majcina, who had suffered a rare leg muscle affliction called compartment syndrome that required surgery and hampered him for over a year, was happy to be back so quickly and was pleased with his performance in practice.”I was able to relax because I had done so well in practice,” he said. “I could trust myself and relax, and it all came together.”Saxer won the pole vault at the Spartan Invitational with a cleared height of 12 feet, 5.5 inches. Senior Molly Huddle ran the second-fastest time in the country this year in the 5,000 meters. Her finish of 15:32.83 was also the second-quickest in school history, behind her own previous record of 15:32.55, set at the 2004 Mount SAC Relays. Huddle has won the 5,000 meters at the regionals each of the past three years.With her time, Huddle also qualified for the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Huddle finished ninth (first among collegiate athletes) at the USATF Outdoor Championship meet in 2005 and seventh (again, best of the collegiate athletes) at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials.Going into the meet, Huddle was already qualified for both the regional and USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and could focus solely on this race.”It was nice to have no pressure and just focus on running a fast time and trying to place in the top half of the field, which was my goal going into the race,” she said.Despite her experience against top competition, Huddle said this year’s Mount SAC was the toughest race of her career.”The competition was the deepest field I’ve ever raced in my entire life,” she said. “I knew it would be really fast from the gun. I was just trying not to be intimidated and to not race over my head yet still take advantage of the great competition.”Four other Irish athletes improved their regional qualifying positions. Freshmen Balazs Molnar finished second in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 51.87 seconds. Molnar’s time was the second-best in the history of Notre Dame track and field and the fastest since 1957. Junior Kyle Annen placed seventh at Mount SAC in the hammer throw, registering a throw of 189 feet, seven inches. That throw was Annen’s best on the season. Senior Maryann Erigha finished third in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.68 seconds, which qualified her for both the 100 and 200-meter dashes for the third consecutive year. Senior Okechi Okbuokiri won the 400-meter dash in 54.25 seconds, her best time of the season. Notre Dame now has 18 regional qualifiers. In light of such success, Majcina was happy with the team’s performance and expected good things in the future.”I see no reason why we shouldn’t do well at the NCAAs,” he said. “We’re doing very well.”