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Track and Field: Benninger runs sub-four minute mile

Jordan Beltz | Monday, January 30, 2006

There is a popular saying that records only exist so that they can later be broken. After Friday’s Notre Dame Invitational, junior Kurt Benninger is an avid believer of that motto.

The All-American Benninger ran a sub-four minute mile for the second time in his career, becoming the first runner in the 116-year history of the Notre Dame track and field program to do so. Benninger completed the circuit with a time of 3:58.77, which is the second fastest time in the nation this year, second only to Iona’s Richard Kiplagat. Benninger was less than a second off of the Notre Dame record, Luke Watson’s 3:57:83, set in 2002 at the Meyo Invitational.

“Kurt was especially motivated tonight,” Irish coach Joe Piane said. “He ran with a purpose tonight, and we’re really happy with the way that things turned out for Kurt.”

While Benninger’s performance certainly was the highlight of the event, two members of the women’s squad also turned in record-setting efforts. Freshman Alyissa Hasan set a new Notre Dame record in the pentathlon, coming up a mere 45 points short of a provisional NCAA qualifying score.

Fellow freshman Mary Saxer continued to impress in the pole vault. She improved upon her NCAA provisional mark that she set at the Blue-Gold Invitational by clearing a height of 13 feet, 3.5 inches.

In the process, she set a new Notre Dame record in the pole vault, and became only the second woman in school history to clear the four-meter mark.

In the men’s weight throw, all three members of the Irish squad posted season-best throws. Junior Garet Koxlien led the way with a throw of 17 meters, good enough for second place.

Kyle Annen was right behind with a throw of 16.37 meters, while junior Kevin Moffitt had a toss of 15.20 meters, qualifying him for the Big East Championship.

The women sprinters also continued to impress, with Maryann Erigha and Okechi Ogbuokiri once again leading the charge.

Erigha captured the crown in the 60 meters with a mark of 7.54 seconds, which was just off of her season best time. Ogbuokiri won the 500 meters with a time of 1:14.38, which qualified her for the Big East Championship in her second event.

After Friday’s meet, the Irish have now qualified 50 athletes in 27 different events for the Big East Championships, with two more meets to go until the championships.

Benninger’s time in the mile also qualified him for the NCAA Championship, which places him in the company of Saxer (pole vault) and Ogbuokiri (400 meters).

The Irish return to action next weekend with the Meyo Invitational.

The two-day event kicks off at 5 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday.