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Track and Field: Irish face last chance to qualify for NCAAs

Aaron Sant-Miller | Thursday, March 1, 2012

Many would argue it is human nature to fear ending something without being remembered. In other words, some would argue that everyone wants to leave some semblance of a legacy, which former Irish runner Alex Wilson achieved. Wilson was a three-time All-American runner at Notre Dame who never lost in both the quarter-mile and the half-mile races. Furthermore, Wilson was a successful Olympic runner, earning both a bronze and silver medal. After this prestigious running career, Wilson went on to coach the Irish some years later, committing himself for 22 years and leading the team to an NCAA championship in 1957.

This weekend, the team will host the Alex Wilson Invitational, named after Wilson. With the NCAA championships looming overhead, this meet provides a unique opportunity for the Irish.

“This is a last chance for kids to get qualified for the NCAA championships,” Irish coach Joe Piane said. “We’re hoping we can get a relay qualified, a pole vaulter, a women’s distance medley, a men’s distance medley and maybe even a quarter-mile [runner] qualified.”

Junior middle distance runner Jeremy Rae, who has put on an impressive junior campaign, is very invested in this competition as well, as he is one of the runners in the men’s distance medley.

“We really want to get the distance medley qualified for the NCAAs,” Rae said. “But also, as a team, we just want to get as many people qualified for the NCAA championships as possible.”

Last week, the men’s team won the Big East championships, while the women finished fourth. The team has higher goals than simply a conference championship, Rae said.

“Sure, we won at the conference level, but we’re still far from being very competitive at the national level,” Rae said. “The change won’t be immediate, but we’re trying to shift the focus more toward success in the NCAAs.”

Notre Dame’s Heritage Hall showcases two Olympic medals Wilson earned, which connects Wilson’s legacy with today’s program. Piane said the team’s history motivates the current squad.

“Any time our athletes run and wear the jersey, they are representing the university, its legacy, as well as the team,” Piane said.

This weekend, the Irish will attempt to honor the University just like Wilson did. While one meet cannot replicate what he was able to accomplish in his tenure as a Notre Dame runner, the Irish hope to leave their own legacy this weekend while they prime themselves for the NCAA championships.

The Alex Wilson Invitational kicks off at 5:00 p.m. Friday at the Loftus Center.