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Track and Field: Aragon excels as student, three-season athlete

Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, May 1, 2012

As competitors at a top Division I institution, Notre Dame student-athletes face the intimidating challenge of balancing rigorous academics with a steady stream of practices and nationwide competitions. For sophomore middle distance runner Alexa Aragon, this task is an even more complex one, as she must juggle her pre-med studies and her role as a three-season athlete.

“It’s pretty tough,” Aragon said of her daily schedule. “I just have to work hard whenever I have free time, not procrastinate and try to be efficient with my time.”

Aragon spends much of her time on the track, where her practice schedule reads much like a heat sheet at one of the many meets in which she has competed. A member of the cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams, Aragon competes for the Irish from September to May and runs a variety of events, ranging from the 800-meter run to the hurdle-filled 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Aragon attributes her versatility to her high school track experience in her native Billings, Mont., where she was a four-time all-state runner, as well as her training regimen.

“In high school, I did a cross country and a lot of different events on the track team because it was a small school and you could do whatever you wanted,” she said. “But I also change my training a little bit, so in the fall I work on a lot more distance-related stuff and during track season, I’ll be doing a lot more speed work.”

Aragon’s emphasis on speed in her middle distance role has helped her earn accolades in her sophomore campaign on the track. After starting her season with a third-place finish in the National Catholic Cross Country Invitational, Aragon found success in indoor track, her self-proclaimed favorite season to compete in. Competing in her favorite event, the mile, Aragon ran a personal-record mark of 4:43.88 in a fifth-place finish at the Meyo Invitational and followed it with a fourth-place showing in the event at the Big East Indoor championships.

She has continued her success in the outdoor season, setting personal records in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 1,500-meter run en route to multiple top-three finishes.

Despite her individual successes, Aragon said she is most proud of her role as a member of the Irish 4×800-meter relay team. In her time on the relay, she has helped lead the team to a second-place finish at the Big East Indoor championships and a victory at the prestigious Drake Relays this past weekend.

“I think a lot of [our success] is that we train together, we work hard together everyday, and we’re going through tough workouts together,” Aragon said. “We take that into the race and say, “I’m doing this for my teammates as well as myself,” so having that motivation contributes to our success.”

Aragon and her relay team face their next challenge this weekend at the Big East outdoor championships. When asked about her preparations to earn a title there, Aragon said she plans to simply continue her hard work and progression as a runner.

“I’m going to continue working hard and training hard this week,” she said. “I’ve seen myself progress a lot from freshman year to this year, so I’m hoping the same thing will happen from this year to next year too.”

With her many running exploits, it might seem unlikely that Aragon has time to devote to many off-the-track activities. Yet the science pre-professional major and poverty studies minor managed to combine her academic passions and give back to the community over spring break when she traveled with her father, an anesthesiologist and former Notre Dame runner, on a medical mission to repair cleft lips and palettes in Puebla, Mexico.

“I first went on one of these [medical trips] four years ago, and I just loved it,” Aragon said. “I loved serving the people and getting to know them. I wanted to go on another trip with [my dad], and it happened that it was on our spring break, so I was able to go.”

With a packed schedule of athletics, academics and service, Aragon admitted she completes her tasks with the help of a lesson learned through running.

“I think running just teaches you to work hard and not give up when things get tough,” she said. “When you’re hurting, you just have to continue that endurance.”

Aragon and the Irish will travel to Tampa, Fla., on Friday to compete in the Big East Outdoor championships.

Contact Brian Hartnett at
bhartnet@nd.edu