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Track and Field: Irish men claim fifth Big East championship

Brian Hartnett | Sunday, February 19, 2012

The men’s team won its fifth indoor Big East championship in New York over the weekend, while the women’s team finished in fourth place — the team’s highest since 2007.

“Everybody really came together as a team and competed well, from the sprinters to the long distance runners to the field events,” Irish coach Joe Piane said. “This championship really means a great deal to our team and bodes well for our future.”

The men’s team spent much of Saturday, a day filled with mostly preliminary races, laying the groundwork for Sunday’s finals, as 13 team members qualified for the final round. Senior pole-vaulter Kevin Schipper provided an early spark for the Irish on Saturday, winning his third consecutive pole vault crown with a vault of 5.25 meters.

Sitting in fourth place on Sunday morning, the Irish pulled away from the field in the finals, earning two individual titles and several top-three finishes. Sophomore sprinter Patrick Feeney took his second consecutive title in the 400-meter event, while junior middle distance runner Jeremy Rae claimed his second straight title in the mile event.

Boosting Notre Dame’s point totals were top finishes in the sprints and middle distance events, as four other Irish runners earned all-Big East accolades. Freshmen sprinters George Atkinson III and Chris Geisting placed third in the 200-meter event and 500-meter event, respectively. Senior middle distance runner Johnathan Shawel took second in the 1,000-meter event, while senior middle distance runner Randall Babb finished third in the 800-meter event.

Notre Dame’s relay teams also posted strong showings. The 4×400-meter relay squad of Geisting, Feeney, junior sprinter Brendan Dougherty and senior middle distance runner Mitch Lorenz and the 4×800-meter relay team of Shawel, Rae, Babb, senior middle distance runner Zac Suriano finished second in their respective events.

With the strong final round performances, the men’s team concluded the championships with 131 points, 28 more than second-place finisher Connecticut.

On the women’s side, the Irish tallied up 79 points, good enough to earn the team a fourth place finish.

Senior multi-event athlete Maddie Buttinger bolstered the team’s point total on the first day of the championships, finishing in second place in the pentathlon with a total of 4,008 points and earning her second all-Big East citation. The team also qualified 10 athletes for the final round events.

Sitting in second place before the final round, the women’s team turned in one individual title and one top-three finish on Sunday. Continuing her strong indoor season, junior sprinter Nevada Sorenson took home an individual title in the 60-meter hurdle event. The 4×800-meter relay team of sophomore Kelly Curran, sophomore Alexis Aragon, sophomore McKinzie Schulz and junior Rebecca Tracy placed second, earning all Big-East accolades.

Piane said he was very happy with the women’s team performance, taking into account the progress the team has made over the course of the last year.

“Last year, we placed eighth in the indoor championships, so the women’s team really improved,” Piane said. “We had a lot of kids perform exceptionally well, and we’re definitely coming along.”

With the conference portion of the season now over, Piane said the team’s focus is now shifted to NCAA Indoor championships, which will take place in mid-March in Nampa, Idaho.

The Irish will return to competition March 2, when they host the Alex Wilson Invitational.

 

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnett@nd.edu