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Track and Field

ND readies for NCAA Championships

| Wednesday, March 4, 2015

As the indoor season draws to a close, seven Irish athletes head towards the pinnacle as they prepare to compete in the NCAA indoor championships, held March 13 and 14 at the Randal Tyson Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Four individual competitors and one relay team will represent Notre Dame as part of the elite field; in order to qualify for nationals, an individual must finish in the top 16 nationally, and a relay team must be among the top 12.

For the men’s team, which has been riddled with injuries this season, senior sprinter Chris Giesting is the lone Irish qualifier. Giesting, a two-time All-American and second-place finisher in the ACC championships last weekend, will compete in the 400-meter dash, in which he has the ninth-best time in the country (45.98 seconds).

Senior Chris Giesting competes during the Notre Dame Invitational 600m on January 24 at Loftus Sports Center.Michael Yu | The Observer

Senior Chris Giesting competes during the Notre Dame Invitational 600m on January 24 at Loftus Sports Center.

“He’s been a little banged up since Arkansas [the Razorback Invitational], so the two weeks he has going in should help him out a lot,” Irish head coach Alan Turner said. “He’s proven that when he’s healthy, he can run with the best in the country.”

The women’s squad, ranked 25th nationally, recently finished third overall at the ACC championships, where junior distance runner Molly Seidel was the meet MVP. Seidel won the 5,000- and 3,000-meter runs on back-to-back days and will compete in the 5,000 at nationals.

“[Molly] has just been incredible this year,” Turner said. “She’s being nominated for the Great Lakes Region Athlete of the Year. … I think her fitness level is as good as anybody in the country right now, her confidence is up and she is peaking at the right time.”

Junior Margaret Bamgbose will also look to follow up on her ACC title in the 400-meter, where she set a Notre Dame record of 52.10 seconds.

Senior Jade Barber, who struggled earlier in the season, rebounded with an 8.20 mark in the 60-meter dash in the final meet of the regular season to make all-ACC first team and qualify for the NCAA championships.

“If she makes some small, minor adjustments, she’s as good as anybody,” Turner said. “She needs to sharpen up her technique … and I’m confident that she will do very well.”

Junior Danielle Aragon qualified for the mile run with a time of 4:37.68 at the ACC meet. However, since she is also the anchor of the Irish distance medley team, which will run Friday night, Turner said they decided it would be most beneficial for her to drop out of the mile and focus on the medley.

Junior middle distance runner Danielle Aragon runs in the Meyo Mile on Feb. 7, the second day of the Meyo Invitational. Aragon finished with a personal best in the mile, completing it in 4:38.73. Wei Lin | The Observer

Junior middle distance runner Danielle Aragon runs in the Meyo Mile on Feb. 7, the second day of the Meyo Invitational. Aragon finished with a personal best in the mile, completing it in 4:38.73.

Aragon will be joined in that race by two freshmen, Jessica Harris and Samantha Murray, who will run the 800-meter opening leg and the 1,200-meter third leg, respectively. Bamgbose will run the second, 400-meter leg of the relay after a three-hour turnaround from the open 400.

“[Jessica] been running lights-out for us,” Turner said. “Her leg is probably the most important leg; if we get out in the top two or three, that will set us up for a great race.”

“We think the race will tighten up for the anchor leg. If that happens, then we have as good a shot as any team in the country. [Danielle Aragon] is running great right now. Last year we were third, and I think we can finish in that range again.”

Turner said he looks forward to seeing the Irish athletes compete on such a big stage.

“It’s extremely elite … once you get there, everyone is fast,” he said. “It’s all about who’s best prepared at that time to perform, and we’ve been able to structure our athletes’ workouts throughout the year to have them peak at this meet.”

“If they execute well, all seven athletes could be top-eight and make first-team All-Americans.”

The Irish will cap off their indoor season March 13 and 14 when the seven qualifying athletes compete for national titles in the NCAA indoor championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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