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Men’s Track and Field: Irish relay dominates Big East

Brian Hartnett | Monday, January 30, 2012

The 4×400-meter relay is traditionally featured as the final event on the docket of a Track meet, showcasing the finest qualities of teamwork and often providing fans with a thrilling ending to the day. With four wins in four events this season, the Irish have consistently ended meets on a positive note.

The quartet — junior Brendan Dougherty, senior Mitch Lorenz, sophomore Patrick Feeney and freshman Chris Geisting — has closed out every meet of the indoor season with a win, most recently taking first place at the Indiana Relays on Saturday.

Their top performance of the season, a stellar mark of 3:12:61 in the Meyo Invitational, is the second fastest time in the Big East, trailing only a Pittsburgh 4×400-meter relay team that currently holds the fastest time in the nation.

Feeney, a contributor to last year’s 4×400-meter relay team that finished fourth in the Big East championships, said increased confidence helped the team’s performance.

“I think the difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is that we just get more into the race and know that we can definitely put up some good times, which just makes us run even harder,” Feeney said.

Confidence is not the only factor that distinguishes this year’s relay team from its predecessors. The addition of Giesting, a star freshman who has already garnered recognition across the Big East, to run the team’s anchor leg has been critical, particularly down the stretch in several races.

“Chris has been a huge help,” Lorenz said. “We all trust Chris and know that, if each guy does his job, Chris won’t let us down in the end.”

The quartet does not practice the relay together very often, as each member focuses on his own individual events. But for Dougherty, Feeney and Geisting, the focus is never set far from 400 meters, as the three sprinters all specialize in the 400-meter event.

“We may practice a few handoffs the day before the meet just to make sure we have it down, but we mostly just train for the open 400 event and that translates to the 4×400,” Feeney said. “But Brendan, Chris and I all do the same workouts together, which helps translate over to the relay.”

Lorenz, who specializes in the half-mile event, said the transition to the 400-meter event was difficult, but the benefits to competing on a team outweigh the negatives.

“It’s definitely been tough since the sprinters always seem to blow by me at the start of my leg and I have to spend the rest of the time catching up, but it’s a lot of fun too,” Lorenz said. “I can’t say enough about the three guys I run with, and I appreciate them taking me into their group, even though I’m not a sprinter.”

Feeney agreed, citing increased camaraderie with the relay team this year. Feeney said this camaraderie comes as a bit of a surprise, as he and Geisting regularly competed against each other before in high school.

“I raced Geisting in high school a few times, and we were battling back and forth every race,” Feeney said. “Knowing that I have him on my team now is a much better feeling.”

In recent meets, the relay team’s bond manifested in the form of team spirit, as team members have taken to wearing neon green headbands specifically for the 4×400-meter relay.

“One thing we’ve done this year is bought these bright green headbands,” Lorenz said. “We all go to our corner right before the relay and put the headbands on, which shows that it’s time to run.”

Onlookers might be blinded by such a display of team spirit, but for the four members of the Irish men’s 4×400-meter relay team, it simply signifies a getting down to business — a business they have unfailingly taken care of, as reflected by their an untainted record.



Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu