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Track and Field: Men’s team wins two Big East titles

Brian Hartnett | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In a season marked by exciting contributions from newcomers, improved performances from veterans and remarkable consistency, Notre Dame asserted itself as an elite contender on the national level.

Behind the leadership of veteran coach Joe Piane and his staff, which was named Big East Men’s Coaching Staff of the Year, the Irish men’s team earned both Big East championships, winning the indoor edition by 28 points in February and capturing the outdoor championships by 53 points in early May.

In addition to the in-conference success, the Irish made a splash on the national scene in early March when the distance medley relay team of senior Johnathan Shawel, freshman Chris Giesting, senior Randall Babb and junior Jeremy Rae earned a victory at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field championships, marking Notre Dame’s first indoor title since 1972.

“Last year, we took fourth at nationals, and this year we won [the distance medley relay],” Rae said. “I don’t think we were that much better of a team, but we were a bit more experienced going into it and knew what to expect, which I think helped a lot. I think it was a combination of things, but, most importantly, it was more experience.”

Rae and Giesting both set personal records this season, with the former running the fourth fastest time nationally in the 1,500-meter event and the latter breaking the school record in the 400-meter run en route to being named the Big East Men’s Most Outstanding Track Performer at the outdoor championships. Senior pole vaulter Kevin Schipper also earned accolades for finishing fourth at the indoor championships and capturing both the indoor and outdoor conference titles in the event.

On the women’s side, the Irish saw vast improvement as the team earned a fourth-place finish at the Big East indoor championships and a runner-up finish at the outdoor championships.

Junior Rebecca Tracy said the team’s improvement over last year’s 10th-place finish in the outdoor championships came as a result of greater team unity.

“I think in the past year, we’ve done a much better job of coming together as a team,” Tracy said. “Before, we didn’t necessarily know who was doing what, but, this year, we’ve done a really great job of keeping up with how everyone’s doing in events other than our own.

Tracy helped lead the Irish at the Big East championships, capturing the title in the 1,500-meter event at the outdoor championships and anchoring the team’s successful 4×800-meter relay squad to a second-place finish.

Senior multi-event athlete Maddie Buttinger closed out her successful Irish career in grand fashion, breaking the school record in the pentathlon en route to finishing third in the NCAA indoor championships.

Rae, Tracy and several other Irish team members hope to put the final touches on a strong season when they compete in the NCAA East Preliminary championships, which will be held May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu