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Track and Field: Notre Dame wins three events

Brian Hartnett | Sunday, March 4, 2012

Competing in their final home meet of the season, the Irish put up a strong showing in a record-breaking Alex Wilson Invitational at Loftus Sports Center this weekend, winning three events and notching top finishes in several others.

The Irish men’s and women’s distance medley relay teams provided the highlight for the squad, as the men’s team placed first and the women’s team placed second in the event. Breaking the school record with a time of 9:29.72, the men’s team of senior middle distance runner Johnathan Shawel, freshman sprinter Chris Geisting, senior middle distance runner Randall Babb and junior middle distance runner Jeremy Rae punched its ticket to the NCAA Indoor championships, which will be held next weekend in Nampa, Idaho.

With a time of 11:04.45, the women’s team of sophomore middle distance runner Kelly Curran, senior sprinter Natalie Geiger, junior middle distance runner Rebecca Tracy and sophomore middle distance runner Alexa Aragon also shattered the school record in the event and will find out Monday whether their time met NCAA qualifying standards.

“This is something the distance medley relay teams look forward to all year long, and they did exceptionally well,” Irish coach Joe Piane said. “In the indoor season, one of our goals is to get to NCAAs, and we knew out best ticket would be through the distance medley.”

Senior multi-event athlete Maddie Buttinger and senior pole vaulter Kevin Schipper continued their strong season for the Irish, as they both claimed first-place finishes. Buttinger took first place in the high jump with a leap of 1.74 meters and followed it up with a second-place finish in the long jump. Schipper won the pole vault competition, breaking his personal record with a vault of 5.40 meters.

“Maddie and Kevin have meant a great deal to this team,” Piane said. “Maddie’s really done exceptionally well for the team this year, and Kevin has been so consistent over his four years here.”

Buttinger and Schipper will look to take their success to the national level next, as they have both qualified for the indoor championships. Buttinger will be competing in the pentathlon, her signature event, while Schipper will look to earn a victory in the pole vault competition.

The invitational, which featured dozens of top college teams from across the nation, saw 10 meet records and six track records fall over its two days of competition. In addition to the record-breaking men’s and women’s distance medley relay times, the Irish also broke school records in the 60-meter hurdles and the 400-meter event. Freshman hurdler Kaila Barber broke the record in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.27 seconds on her way to finishing fifth in the event, while sophomore sprinter Patrick Feeney topped the school record in the 400-meter event by a full six seconds en route to a third-place finish.

Another top finisher for the Irish in the invitational was sophomore sprinter Aijah Urssery, who was the runner-up in the 200-meter dash event and took fifth place in the 60-meter dash.

With the indoor season now concluded for the majority of the team, Piane said he feels confident in the team’s progress heading into the outdoor season, which begins in late March.

“I think that our progress has been great, and both teams should do exceptionally well during the outdoor season,” Piane said. “But it sure is nice for most of those kids to have a break now.”

Buttinger, Schipper and the men’s distance medley relay team will return to the track next weekend when they compete at the NCAA Indoor championships in Nampa, Idaho.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnett@nd.edu