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Track and Field

Irish set 21 personal records as program hosts first ACC indoor championships

| Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hosting the ACC indoor championships for the first time in school history, Notre Dame gave the home crowd several strong individual performances throughout the competition while creating an electric atmosphere for the 15 schools involved.

Irish head coach Alan Turner said that from the perspective of the host of the ACC Championships, the weekend was a huge success.

Irish junior sprinter Jessica Harris competes in her leg of the women's distance medley relay team on Friday at Loftus Sports Complex. The relay team won first place in the event.Allison Culver | The Observer

Irish junior sprinter Jessica Harris competes in her leg of the women’s distance medley relay team on Friday at Loftus Sports Complex. The relay team won first place in the event.

“I think all the coaches and the athletes were thrilled that they were on a ‘big track,’ because a lot of the times were ‘lights out’ at this championship,” Turner said. “The weather held off, we had a warm-up facility in the [Joyce Center] so everyone had plenty of space for that — we just have a lot of room — so I think that made it enjoyable for everybody, and the performances were great.”

Notre Dame had its fair share of great performances over the three-day competition. The women’s team finished in fifth place while the men’s team took eighth, and overall the Irish set 21 personal records. At the end of the meet, Turner said he saw improvement from his team and that they for the most part met his expectations, taking into account the absences of some key athletes.

“Overall, we finished right about where I thought we would,” Turner said. “On the women’s side, we’re not 100 percent at full strength. We had nine scholarship athletes on the women’s side that didn’t suit up for various injuries, the big one being [graduate student] Molly Seidel, who’s won at these championships for two straight years and was the returning Indoor National Athlete of the Year. I lost my best sprinter two weeks ago at Clemson, and we had some other girls that were out, so we knew we weren’t going to be in the top three, but being fifth showed us that the ones who did compete can do so at a very high level for us.

“On the men’s side, we wanted to be in the top half. We just missed that by coming in eighth, so I’m still rebuilding and we still have some work to do there. However, as a team and a program we’re on the right track, we’re getting better … and we’re going to use this performance as a springboard.”

Significant individual performances included that of sophomore Anna Rohrer, who won the 5,000-meter on Friday with a time of 15:38.11 — her first individual conference track championship in that event. The Mishawaka native also finished third in the 3,000-meter race with a time of 9:22.09. On the men’s side, senior Nathan Richartz took third place in the pole vault with a mark of 5.30 meters, landing him a spot in the NCAA indoor championships.

However, the star of the meet for Notre Dame was junior Jessica Harris, who led the Irish to a come-from-behind victory in the women’s distance medley relay Thursday with an unofficial mile time of 4:30 as the anchor leg. Harris then iced the cake by winning the women’s mile on Saturday with a personal-best time of 4:33.80. For Harris, who has consistently improved her mile time throughout the indoor season, the gold medals were a shock.

“I can’t believe it, it’s unreal,” Harris said. “I always thought of myself as an 800 runner, and so I didn’t even expect to run the mile this season, but learning a new skill and the strategy that goes along with it is definitely exciting.”

Next, Notre Dame will compete at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 10 and 11 in College Station, Texas. Current rankings qualify the Irish for the women’s distance medley relay, the women’s mile, the women’s 5,000-meter and the men’s pole vault.

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