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Track and Field: Relay leads team to Big East championships

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Six athletes will represent Notre Dame at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Nampa, Idaho this weekend, bringing the first portion of the season to a close.

Following roughly three months of competition, the indoor season will conclude with the national meet, after which the outdoor season will begin.

Senior pole-vaulter Kevin Schipper, who jumped a personal best height of 5.40 meters his last time out, and senior multi-eventer Maddie Buttinger will represent Notre Dame in Idaho. Schipper is a five-time Big East champion pole-vaulter, and Buttinger placed second in the pentathlon at the Big East Indoor championships Feb. 19.

The men’s distance medley relay team, comprised of senior Johnathan Shawel (1,200-meter), freshman Chris Giesting (400-meter), senior Randall Babb (800-meter) and junior Jeremy Rae (1,600-meter), is also preparing for the meet.

“We come from three different training groups … so it is pretty unique because three separate training groups all competing on the same team,” Babb said. “It creates that much bigger of an environment, our whole team gets so excited for the relay because we are a pretty diverse group.”

At last year’s NCAA Indoor championships, the Irish men’s distance medley relay team placed fourth with a combined time of 9:30.16 and received All-American honors. Shawel and Rae both participated on last year’s medley team, but Giesting and Babb are first time competitors at the NCAA championship level.

“It is definitely different,” Shawel said. “This is third time I have been there and it is definitely going to be the last time I go for indoors, so it is pretty much all or nothing. I remember the other times I went, it was pretty stressful, being a newcomer to nationals and you are racing guys who have been there multiple times. Definitely, now I feel experienced.”

This year’s relay team qualified for the NCAA championships less than a week ago at the Alex Wilson Invitational. The group ran a school-record time of 9:29.72 and automatically qualified for the NCAA Indoor championships. The Irish will hope to maintain the momentum gained from their recent performance as they attempt to improve on last year’s fourth place finish at the national meet.

“It is going to take firing on all cylinders, that is for sure,” Babb said. “Everyone is just going to have to run super focused and not be overwhelmed. It is just going to be a huge step up in environment, from when we qualified at Alex Wilson, but that being said … we realize what we did last year … going forward, we are definitely looking forward to doing something bigger and better.”

While most of the Irish athletes are already gearing up for the outdoor season, which kicks off March 22 at the Alabama Relays, the few who qualified for the NCAA’s turn their attention to an indoor meet one last time.

Notre Dame’s representatives will compete for a title Friday and Saturday in Nampa, Idaho.


Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu