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Men’s Track: Irish send 7 to nationals

Eugenia Alfonzo | Friday, March 14, 2008

A long indoor track season concludes this weekend when the Irish face the nation’s best at the NCAA Championship in Fayetteville, Ark.

Notre Dame will send a total of seven participants, a number that thrilled head coach Joe Piane.

“This is the biggest group of athletes we’ve had in years” Piane said in a und.com interview, “And frankly, everyone that’s going not only has the chance to score but could earn All-American honors”.

Senior Kurt Benninger hopes to cap off another stellar indoor season with the 3,000-meter run. Running in his fifth trip to the NCAA Championships, Benninger has consistently performed well at this meet, earning five All-American honors in both track and cross country.

Junior Patrick Smyth will also be running the race as the No. 10 seed. Smyth has also had experience with NCAA Championship meet, running the 5,000-meter race last year and earning his first All-American honors.

“I did qualify for the 5K as well, but I decided to just concentrate of the 3K,” Smyth said. “I’m running with Kurt, and we both really like our chances in the 3K, there’s no one in the lead.”

Seniors Austin Wechter, Adam Currie, junior Daniel Clark and sophomore Blake Choplin will also make the trip down to Fayetteville and are the No. 11 seed in the Distance Medley Relay (DMR). With Notre Dame’s reputation for having consistent DMR performances at the NCAA finals, it will be necessary for the Irish to keep last week’s intensity despite the absence of Benninger.

Senior Jake Watson earned the No. 12 seed qualification for the mile run after running an NCAA provisional 4:00.39 time at the Alex Wilson Invitational March 7 and 8. For this meet, he will look to surpass the 4-minute mile for the first time this season.

Watson will run the mile at 6:15 p.m. and the DMR will race at 9:15 p.m. Benninger and Smyth will compete tomorrow at 7:35 p.m.