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Men’s Track: Team finishes second at Big East championships

Jack Hefferon | Friday, May 20, 2011

Under the guidance of coach Joe Piane, Notre Dame has built a tradition of success on the track. After a year full of all-Americans, broken records and team championships, Notre Dame has asserted itself as a national contender.

The Irish opened the indoor season strong with some great performances at early season meets. The team showed its middle distance class immediately, sweeping every distance from 400 to 1600-meters at the Notre Dame Invitational. At the Indiana Relays, Notre Dame, led by sophomore Jeremy Rae, took gold in both the 800-meter and 4×800-meter relay.

Continuing the middle distance domination, Rae provided one of the highlights of the year at the Meyo Invitational, breaking the four-minute mark to claim the prestigious Meyo Mile.

“Breaking four in the mile has been a goal of mine since I started running track in the eighth grade,” Rae said. “Being able to do it in front of family, friends and teammates made it extra special. Never before have I been so satisfied with how a race played out.”

The Irish then headed into the Indoor Big East championships looking for their fourth straight Big East title. The team received strong performances across the board, including wins from freshman Patrick Feeney in the 400-meter, junior Johnathan Shawel in the 1000-meter and Rae in the mile. Despite the team effort, Notre Dame came up just short, finishing second to Connecticut by less than five points.

The indoor season wasn’t quite over for the Irish after the Big East season, as the team qualified their distance medley relay for the NCAA championships. The team of Shawel, Feeney, Rae and graduate student Jack Howard ran their best time of the year, finishing in 9:30.16 to claim fourth-place and all-American honors.

“The four of us were very excited heading into NCAAs and it showed on the track,” Rae said. “Each of us ran near personal records. We were able to beat some highly ranked teams, and ended up being all-Americans.”

On that note, the Irish took their game outdoors, and it was the field athletes who gave the team an immediate boost. Senior Denes Veres won the shot put at the highly competitive Arizona State Invitational, and senior Justin Schneider placed second in the decathlon at the Alabama Relays.

The success in the field continued at the Outdoor Big East championships, where senior John Belcher won the weight throw with a personal best mark of 58.89 meters, and junior Kevin Schipper took first in the pole vault. Those performances were not enough to tip the scales, however, as the Irish finished second to Connecticut once again.

While the two close defeats may have clouded over part of this season’s success, the senior class graduates as one of the most successful classes in school history, and the friendships and bonds and the friendships and bonds formed will far outlast the memories of times and races.

“Every time I put on the Irish uniform, I am filled with great memories and emotions,” Veres said. “Over the past four years, my teammates have made the experience unforgettable. I cannot imagine being a part of any other program.”