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Track and Field: Shawel’s strong finish leads Irish into weekend

Brian Hartnett | Friday, April 20, 2012

Held over a three-day period every April, the Mt. SAC Relays on the campus of San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., is one of the most famed track meets in the nation. The event counts such accomplished Olympians as Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee among its former competitors. Notre Dame wrote its name into the 54th chapter of the relays’ storied history Thursday with a 25th-place showing in the 1500-meter race by senior middle-distance runner Johnathan Shawel.

Shawel took first place in his heat of eight runners, finishing in a time of 3:49.24. In the overall field, consisting of 11 heats, Shawel finished 25th out of the field of 121 runners, approximately six seconds behind the victor, Iowa State senior Rico Loy.

The Irish will look to add another line to the meet’s history books Friday when junior middle-distance runner Jeremy Rae also competes in the 1500-meter event. Rae will compete in the invitational-elite division of the 1500-meter race, which features select college runners, as well as unattached amateur competitors. Despite the more difficult field, Irish coach Joe Piane said he believes Rae, who holds the fourth-fastest time nationally in the event, has a great chance of turning in a top finish.

“He [Rae] looks terrific at practice, and he’s run exceptionally well,” Piane said. “I’ll be real anxious to see how he does Friday night.”

While Shawel and Rae conclude competition on the West Coast, the remainder of the Irish team will stay closer to home, traveling to Bloomington, Ind. to compete in the Polytan Invitational on Saturday and Sunday.

With the Big East championships looming on the horizon, Piane said he estimates approximately 65 to 70 team members have met Big East qualifying standards and will be traveling for the conference championships, although some athletes will still have the chance to qualify this weekend. With qualification for the Big East meet nearly concluded, Piane said the team’s focus for this weekend has shifted toward preparation for the conference event.

“Some kids are going to run in different events,” Piane said. “Some kids haven’t raced for quite a while, so they’re going to have an opportunity to get this race in. We’re doing whatever these kids need right now in preparation for the Big East meet.”

The Irish will look to build on their success in last weekend’s Texas Roadhouse Border Battle, where they captured nine event victories. Key contributors to last weekend’s strong showing included several members of Notre Dame’s field team, as sophomore thrower Andrew Brock and senior pole-vaulter Kevin Schipper, who was named the Big East Men’s Field Athlete of the Week on Monday, captured victories in the shot put and pole vault, respectively. Additionally, sophomore thrower Amanda Chamblee and senior pole-vaulter Ann Polcari took home second-place finishes at the meet for the Irish women, with Chamblee finishing second in the javelin throw and Polcari finishing as the runner-up in the pole vault.

With several members of the field team only competing in outdoor events, Piane said this unit is essential to Notre Dame’s success in the spring season.

“If we didn’t have the field members, we wouldn’t do anything at the Big East meet,” Piane said. “We have some good throwers and some additional good jumpers in both genders, which will allow us to do well.”

Rae will compete at the Mt. SAC Relays on Friday, while the rest of the Irish will compete in the Polytan Invitational on Saturday and Sunday.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu