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ND TRACK AND FIELD: Notre Dame qualifies 7 athletes for regionals

Bill Brink | Monday, April 2, 2007

Notre Dame, which this weekend sent athletes to both the Stanford Invitational in Stanford, Calif., and the Mike Poehlein Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind., continued to build on its success this outdoor season.

The Irish qualified seven athletes for the NCAA Mideast Regionals and posted 18 Big East qualifying times.

Irish coach Joe Piane was pleased with the team’s performance at the Stanford Invitational, where all the Mideast qualifying times were set.

“It was a terrific meet,” he said. “On the guys’ side, we brought ten fellas, and every one of them ran the best time they’d ever run outdoors. Four of those guys qualified for the NCAAs.”

Senior Todd Ptacek finished third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, posting a personal-best time of 8:57.87 and qualifying for the NCAA regionals. Sophomore Patrick Smyth placed fifth in the 5,000 meters with a time of 13:48.53. The outdoor track significantly improved Smyth’s performance – a personal best that qualified him for the regionals.

“Smyth ran ten seconds faster than he did indoors,” Piane said. “He can run faster than that, and he will. Now he’s running 13:48, the next step is to run 13:40. You just set the bar at the next level.”

Junior Jake Watson finished fifth in the 1500 meters with a time of 3:45.25 and earned his first regional bid in the event. Junior John Cavanaugh’s personal-best time of 1:50.26 earned him 10th place and a regional qualifying spot.

Senior Molly Huddle finished fifth in the 5,000 meters, running a time of 15:50.53. Besides qualifying her for the regional meet, that time put her among the country’s leaders.

“Molly Huddle ran very, very well, probably one of the top three or four times in the country right now,” Piane said.

Senior Amy Kohlmeier’s time of 16:51.26 in the 5,000 meters was good enough to qualify her for the regionals as well.

Rounding out the field of NCAA qualifiers was freshman Lindsey Ferguson, who finished ninth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:45.41.

Junior Brienne Davis led the Irish in West Lafayette, winning both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash. She took the 100 with a time of 12.34 seconds and won the 200 in 25.06 seconds. Sophomore Mary Saxer won the long jump with a distance of 5.66 meters, and freshman Jaclyn Espinoza won the discus throw with a distance of 47.38 meters.

Piane partially attributed the success of the team to the opponents they faced.

“Rise to the level of the competition, and they are going to improve significantly,” Piane said. “[Freshmen] Blake Choplin and Cameron Eckert ran the best times of their lives. Why is that? Because of the quality of the competition.”

Choplin and Eckert both ran Big East qualifying times.

The Irish had 42 athletes finish in the top 10 of their respective events or heats, a testament to the depth of the team.

“And that’s what you need in order to win the Big East conference,” Piane said. “And that’s going to be our goal.”