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Track; Three Irish Athletes named All-Americans

Eugenia Alfonzo and Andy Barker | Monday, March 17, 2008

Notre Dame earned three all-American honors – two men and one woman – and obtained 36th place on the menn’s side at the NCAA Indoor National Championships at Fayetteville, Ark., this past weekend.

Senior Kurt Benninger earned his sixth all-American honors with his fifth-place finish in the 3,000-meter race with a time of 8:03.61. He added to his long list of accomplishments in the NCAA meet including a fourth place finish in the mile and the anchor leg of the distance medley relay (DMR) in 2006.

Junior Patrick Smyth also ran in the race running to a 13th place finish overall with an 8:10.33 time.

Senior Jake Watson earned his second consecutive all-American honors in the mile with a time of 4:05.51. In a close finish, Watson ended up sixth in the race, missing fifth by .01 seconds.

Watson was quite pleased with his performance, but realizes that there is still room for improvement.

“The improvement over last has been incredible. My knowledge of championship racing has gone up tenfold,” Watson said. “In that way I was happy with my race, although I believe there are some things I could have done better, which means there is still a lot of room for improvement.”

The senior spoke about the strategy behind the race that enabled his opponents to perform as well as they did.

“I thought the guys who got second and third [Jake Morse of Texas and AJ Acosta of Oregon] raced very well,” Watson said. “I did not expect them to race as smart and as well as they did but I also knew they were both very talented so for them to place that high was not out of the question.”

The DMR finished ahead of their seed, even with junior Dan Clark replacing Benninger in the anchor leg. The DMR team of Clark, sophomore Blake Choplin and seniors Austin Wechter and Adam Currie finished in 10th place with a time of 9:45.51.  

Benninger and Watson earned four and three points respectively to have the first Notre Dame top-40 finish in the last seven seasons.

Alyissa Hasan was the only Irish woman to compete at the NCAA meet this weekend.

She made up for that lack of quantity by posting a quality performance on the biggest stage of the season at the NCAA Championships.

The 5-foot-9 junior became Notre Dame’s first-ever multi-event All-American by finishing eighth in the pentathlon.

Hasan scored a school-record and career-best 4,069 points, breaking her previous record of 3,969 set at the Akron Open earlier this season.

The NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships mark the end of the indoor track season, as the Irish will now begin preparation for the outdoor season that begins March 27 with the Arizona multi-events Invitational and the Arizona State Invitational.

Looking ahead to the outdoor season, Watson has set a series of goals, regarding where he envisions himself developing to close the year.

“For the outdoor season I am looking to be in the top five at the 1500 meters in the NCAA, and to make the finals of the 1500 meters at Olympic trials in July,” Watson said. “The 1500 outdoors will be a little bit of a tougher event, due to some more athletes coming to run it who were not around indoors or ran other events indoors, but I think the training I will do between now and then will prepare me very well and I will be ready.”