Irish squeak by Huskies for Big East crown
By HEATHER VAN HOEGARDEN
Since one Big East Championship was not enough for the mens track and field team, the Irish decided to repeat their indoor accomplishment — by winning the Big East Outdoor Championship.
The men won the Big East Outdoor Championship by a slim margin over Connecticut, 139 to 136.5 to become the first Notre Dame mens track team to win both the indoor and outdoor Big East Championships.
"The Big East is a different meet from all the other meets," Notre Dame distance runner Eric Morrison said. "When you go there, you go there to do well individually, but the one thing that is always clear in your mind is to win the title as a team. In other meets, you might try to get a good time, or win a race, but it is never really team-oriented."
Contributing to Notre Dame's team victory was the stellar performance of three individuals, who all garnered individual championships. Highly-acclaimed senior Luke Watson won both the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000 meters on consecutive days. Selim Nurudeen won the 110-meter hurdles for the second year in a row (13.95 seconds). Finally, in an upset, Godwin Mbagwu won the triple jump with a 15.32 meter effort.
However, the Irish athletes were not the only ones being recognized. The Irish coaching staff was named the 2003 Big East Outdoor Coaching Staff of the Year. The staff consists of Joe Piane, Tim Connelly, John Millar, Scott Winsor and B.J. Linnenbrink.
This staff led a talented squad that used a team effort to attain the conference championship. Ryan Hurd earned three points, finishing sixth in the 100 meters (21.59), while Ryan Postel added three of his own, taking sixth in the 400 meters (48.02).
Meanwhile, in the distance realm, Morrison earned his second all-Big East honor of the year (indoor mile run), as he finished third in the 1,500 meters (3:50.65). Kevin Somok took sixth in the same race to give the Irish a combined nine points from the two.
Despite the fact that Watson brought in 10 points for the Irish in the 5,000 meters, four other runners combined for 21 points in the event. John Keane took fourth (14:29.75), Tim Moore, fifth (14:35.09) and David Alber, seventh (14:38.83), respectively.
Also scoring for the Irish was Mark Barber, who finished sixth in the 110-meter hurdles.
The 400-meter hurdle group scored big for the Irish, as Napolean Suarez finished third to earn his first outdoor all-Big East honor, Barber took fourth and Roberto Garcia took sixth.
Finally, in the relays, the 4x100 team (Nurudeen, Postel, Hurd and Barber) finished third to earn all Big East honors, the first Notre Dame relay to do so since 2000.
Also earning all-Big East honors was the 4x800 meter relay, who finished third. Thomas Chamney, Morrison, Somok and Vinnie Ambrico ran for the Irish.
"The Big East meet is neat because everyone rallies together and puts together all the work they have put in the whole year," Morrison said. "That is basically what the Big East is all about."
The Irish travel to the Georgia Tech Invitational next weekend for a tune-up before the NCAA Regional in Columbus, Ohio on May 30 and 31. Following the Regional, the NCAA Championship begins June 11 in Sacramento, Calif.
"After winning the Big East, we feel good, we feel confident going into the Regional," Morrison said.
All Sports Stories for Friday, July 11, 2003