Feb. 25, 2017
By Megan Golden
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- With just one lap to go in the mile, Irish junior Jessica Harris was almost even with the front of the pack, running with a smile plastered across her face. She gutted out the final leg of the mile to just barely steal the gold medal from Clemson junior Grace Barnett. The smile grew even bigger as she crossed the finish line with her second individual Atlantic Coast Conference Championship of the week.
“Was it me?” Harris immediately inquired. “Did I do it?”
In fact, she did. Harris ignited the University of Notre Dame women’s track and field team in its fifth-place finish at the 2017 ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships at Loftus Sports Center on Saturday. The Irish men, led by the middle distance runners, finished eighth in the conference.
After anchoring the women’s distance medley relay squad to first place with an unofficial 4:30 mile split on Thursday, Harris’ attention shifted toward her next race. She ran a 4:47.92 mile on Friday, finishing third in the preliminaries and advancing to the final on Saturday.
Harris arrived to Loftus on Saturday, ready to compete in the fifth mile race of her college career -- with a giant smile on her face.
“I talked to her before the race, and today, she had a bigger smile on her face than she’d ever had,” Irish associate head coach Matt Sparks said. “I said, ‘You’re making me nervous because you’re smiling so big.’ She said, ‘I’m more nervous today than I usually am.’
“When you see the smile on her face, with 50 or 100 meters to go, that’s not a smile of happiness. Everybody shows their anxiety differently, and her anxiety is displayed with a bigger grin.”
Harris recorded a personal record with a time of 4:33.80. The mark ranks second in the ACC to Barnett’s 4:33.40 and eighth in the country this season.
Sparks said Harris has developed the ability to close out races in the final 100 meters. That combination of confidence and ability to finish the race, he said, is what has led Harris to experience success.
“The thing that puts you over the top to be a winner in a race like that is the grit to keep digging a little bit more,” he said. “Every step, you’re pushing a little bit harder, a little bit harder, and I think she had some of that in the 800m, but you can see it a little bit cleaner with a race that’s a little longer in the mile.”
Following her gold-medal performance in the 5,000m on Friday, sophomore Anna Rohrer finished third with a time of 9:22.09 in the 3,000m race on Saturday afternoon. Rohrer, who has won two individual conference championships in her athletic career, will compete at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in the 5,000m.
Rohrer’s season-best mark of 15:38.11 in the 5,000m is the top mark in the ACC and fifth-best time in the country.
“She’s struggled a little bit more during this indoor season than she did a year ago. The 5K was a big relief for she and I both that she finally got onto the national scale again,” Sparks said. “I know she’s going to be in everybody’s thoughts as someone who is going to contend for a national title in the 5K, and I feel like she’s got her confidence back from the last couple of weeks.
“We’ve been training a little bit differently than we had a year ago, and just in the last couple of weeks, we’ve gone back to the basics of what we’re doing in workouts. That’s given her a little bit more peace of mind. We’re going to keep things simple and go back to the bread and butter.”
Sophomore Kelly Hart, who played a role in the women’s DMR victory, finished sixth overall in the 800m final with a time of 2:08.22.
In the Infield
Senior Nathan Richartz vaulted 5.30m and finished third overall in the pole vault. Richartz, the 2016 ACC Indoor Pole Vault Champion, currently owns the ninth-best mark in the country at 5.50, which he set at the Tiger Paw Invitational at Clemson earlier this season.
Senior Taylor Craft recorded an eighth-place finish in the triple jump and scored one point for Notre Dame. Senior Indi Jackson added three points for the Irish, finishing sixth in the women’s shot put with a 14.97m throw.
Men’s Middle Distance
Notre Dame had four men compete in Saturday’s one-mile race, including seniors Jacob Dumford and Christopher Marco, junior Billy Dolan and freshman Ryan Schweizer. The group came out of nowhere on Friday to advance to the final day of competition, especially Dolan and Schweizer, who previously had owned the 31st and 43rd-ranked times in the conference.
The milers scored a total of seven points in the final as Dumford crossed the line in fifth at the 4:03.41 mark, Marco came in seventh in 4:04.84, Schweizer finished eighth in 4:06.32 and Dolan recorded 10th in 4:17.47.
Senior Patrick O’Connell (1:55.15) placed eighth in the men’s 800m race, earning one point for the Irish.
Top Irish Finishers
1. Jessica Harris - 4:33.80
5. Jacob Dumford - 4:03.41
8. Troy Pride Jr. - 6.83
6. Kelly Hart - 2:08.22
8. Patrick O’Connell - 1:55.15
3. Anna Rohrer - 9:22.09
Women’s 4x400m Relay:
8. Notre Dame - 3:40.91
Men’s 4x400m Relay:
5. Notre Dame - 3:11.81
Women’s Shot Put:
6. Indi Jackson - 14.97m
Men’s Shot Put:
13. Logan Kusky - 15.13m
Women’s Triple Jump:
8. Taylor Craft - 12.19m
Men’s Pole Vault:
3. Nathan Richartz - 5.30
Coming Up Next
Notre Dame returns to action at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships on March 10-11 at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Stadium (College Station, Texas).
As the rankings currently stand, the Irish will compete in the women’s DMR, women’s mile, women’s 5,000m and the men’s pole vault.
For a closer, behind-the-scenes look at the Irish track and field program, follow @NDXCTF on Twitter.
Megan Golden, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since August of 2016. In her role, she coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women's lacrosse and cross country/track and field programs. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Golden is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary's College and former Irish women’s basketball manager. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she worked in public relations with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.