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Track and Field

Molly Seidel earns first women’s track title in Notre Dame history

| Friday, June 12, 2015

With a strong burst of speed and a well-executed race, Molly Seidel made Notre Dame history Thursday when she crossed the finish line of the NCAA 10,000-meter championship first in Eugene, Oregon.

Seidel’s national championship run is the first women’s track title in program history, and her time of 33:18.37 also puts her second in Notre Dame’s record books, behind only American 5,000 meter record holder Molly Huddle.

Seidel was hardly the favorite entering the race, despite having the fastest qualifying time in the nation. Boise State senior Emma Bates was the defending champion, and Arkansas junior Dominique Scott has won three national titles to go along with one of the fastest kicks in the NCAA. Bates and Scott both placed in the top 10 at the cross country national championships, while Seidel was back in 19th.

“Going in, I knew that Bates and Scott were the two heaviest favorites by far,” Seidel said. “I definitely knew that I wanted to try and stay up with them as long as possible. But I think, initially, it wasn’t even in [my] mind going in to win.”

Molly Seidel races during the fall cross country season at the National Catholic Championships on Sept. 19 at Notre Dame Golf Course. Wei Lin | The Observer

Molly Seidel races during the fall cross country season at the National Catholic Championships on Sept. 19 at Notre Dame Golf Course.

However, for the first five miles, the pace was well within Seidel’s comfort zone as no runner made a decisive move to the front. She stayed near the front of the pack and maintained a tactical position to cover any moves her opponents might make.

Then, with four laps to go, Bates dropped the field with a 66-second lap that gave her a 50-meter edge over second. Seidel led the chase pack, and as quickly as Bates built a lead, she started to fall apart in the third-to-last circuit. As she entered the homestretch, Seidel caught and passed her aggressively, starting a surge of her own.

It was only at this point when Seidel took the lead did she start to think she could hold on and win.

“I was kind of just running scared at that point,” Seidel said. “But it started going through my mind at that point, ‘Just keep pushing, keep pushing. You need to stay ahead, and if you do that you might be able to do it.’

“I think that entire time I just knew the girls were behind me and I knew that Dominique Scott is one of the fastest kickers in the NCAA, so I was really just giving everything I had at that point. I didn’t want to let up too soon.”

But Scott was roughly 50 meters behind with 800 to go and had not started her kick. As Seidel posted a 75-second penultimate lap, her next closest competitor was 20 meters behind and not gaining any ground.

The gap between Seidel and the field only grew as she pushed the pace even further in the final lap, taking 70 seconds to cover the remaining 400 meters. As she crossed the line, the only runner nearby was Hillary Montgomery of Texas A&M, whom she had just lapped.

Seidel credited her strong kick at the end to her training and her experience earlier in the season running shorter distances, which forced her to develop quicker turnover, she said.

“[Irish distance coach Matt] Sparks had the good presence of mind to put me in a 1,500 earlier in the season and do a lot of workouts where I would do a long tempo and then fast repeats at the end, something like 400 meters,” Seidel said. “That was really getting that raw speed to get ready for that mad dash at the end.”

With another year left in her collegiate career and a heralded recruiting class coming in, Seidel’s expectations for herself and her team next season are now sky-high, she said. The Irish will also have the benefit of a full season under Sparks, who took over the distance runners two weeks before cross country season this year.

“I think [the win] really has a lot of potential for the growth of the program as a whole … and helping to raise that bar and show that national championships are something that we can do here at ND,” Seidel said.

Senior Jade Barber finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles and junior Margaret Bamgbose placed sixth in the 400-meter dash to secure the first-ever top-15 performance for the Irish program, finishing tied for 13th place with Stanford.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

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