The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Former ND track star dies in race

Ken Fowler | Monday, November 5, 2007

Former Notre Dame track star Ryan Shay collapsed and died during the U.S. Olympic marathon trials Saturday in New York City. He was 28.

Shay collapsed in Central Park five and a half miles into the race.

Shay’s father told the Associated Press Saturday that doctors diagnosed the runner with an enlarged heart when he was in high school but doctors repeatedly cleared him to run. On Sunday, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office told AP that the initial autopsy on Shay’s body was inconclusive.

Shay’s legacy at Notre Dame is not in doubt.

“He was the ultimate competitor,” Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White said Saturday. “He had an aura about him.”

White called Shay “the Brady Quinn of the Olympic sports, that’s how big he was around here.”

The 2002 graduate was a three-time All-American in the 10,000 meters and he won the event at the 2001 NCAA Championship meet, giving Notre Dame its first individual outdoor track title since 1954.

Shay also earned All-America status in the indoor 5,000 meters, in the outdoor 5,000 meters and in cross-country. In all, he was honored nine times as an All-American.

“Leading up to the 2001 NCAA 10,000-meter race, we knew that Ryan would be one of the top contenders and frankly thought he had what it took to win the race,” Irish cross country and track coach Joe Piane said in a statement released by the Notre Dame athletic department. “He took the lead after the first lap and then led for the final 24 laps. He just dominated the field that day and won going away.”

Piane called Shay “the most tenacious competitor I ever had the honor to coach.”

Luke Watson, Shay’s former teammate and roommate, first met Shay on Watson’s recruiting visit to Notre Dame for the 1997 National Catholic Invitational.

“Ryan knew one thing: Run very fast and very hard,” Watson said in a statement released by the Notre Dame athletic department. “Usually at the National Catholic meet, we downplay that event and use it as a chance to get some of the reserve guys some experience. People were telling Ryan to take it easy, but he just wanted to run fast. He would get frustrated when people told him to slow down.

“Right off the bat, I had a good idea of who he was.”

Ryan Hall – whose wife, Sara, was a bridesmaid at Shay’s wedding with the former Alicia Craig this July – won the event in an Olympic trials record of 2:09:02. Hall earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the 2008 Beijing Games and said he would dedicate his performance there to Shay.

Alicia Shay is a running star in her own right. She won two individual NCAA titles and held the 10,000-meter women’s record while at Stanford with Ryan and Sara Hall.

Ryan Shay was born on May 4, 1979 in Ann Arbor, Mich.