Track & Field

@ndxctf
Teammates on the Right Track

Feb. 13, 2017

By Tyler Testin

In the high jump, an athlete attempts to leap over a bar suspended nearly seven feet in the air. It is a solo event, but this test of individual agility and strength has forged a close friendship between Notre Dame’s top two high jumpers. Junior Hunter Holton and sophomore Matthew Birzer together have helped the Fighting Irish track program reach new heights.

“We do pretty much everything athletically together; lifting, training, jumping at the same time of day,” Holton said. “It’s been really good for me. Freshman year I was by myself as the only high jumper. Matt came in and we were both jumping really well early on. We’ll push each other. I think there is that competition between each other, which is good to have.”

With an additional year of collegiate track experience, Holton has served as both teammate and mentor to Birzer. The duo roomed together at away meets, and Holton’s guidance eased the younger jumper’s transition to Division I college track and field. Birzer put up impressive numbers in his freshman season, including a second-place finish at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, posting a career-best jump of 7 feet 1.5 inches.

“I’ve appreciated having a teammate,” Birzer said. “In high school I basically jumped alone all four years. I got to college and I had another guy jumping the same heights as me. It definitely pushed me because I like being competitive and I like having someone to compete against. At the same time, we’re teammates; we want the other to do well.”

At Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational held February 3-4, one of the major meets of the indoor track season, the two both finished in the top 10 for the high jump. It was one of Birzer and Holton’s final competitions at Notre Dame until the ACC Indoor Championship at the end of February. Holton tied his personal record with a jump of 6 feet 9.75 inches and finished in third place. Birzer ended the home meet in sixth place, but bounced back at the Tiger Paw Invitational hosted by Clemson on February 10-11. In South Carolina, Birzer took second place with a height of 7 feet 0.5 inches; his best jump of the spring. 

“I’ve been happy with my performance so far,” Birzer said. “I’ve been jumping decently high, not hitting as high of bars as I want to, but at the same time we’re still training hard. We’re not at the point of the point of the year yet where we need to be peaking. The season is still young. We’re not going to be done until hopefully mid-June.”

Notre Dame’s two high jumpers will have more opportunities to prove themselves prior to the outdoor championships beginning in May. The indoor season comes to a close with the ACC Championship on February 23-25 followed by the NCAA Championship on March 10-11 for those who qualify. The Penn Relays held near the end of the outdoor regular season are also marked on the jumpers’ calendar. The track team stands to have competitive scores all season with these two friends jumping for the Irish.

“Seeing someone else jumping high on my own team was awesome to have,” Holton said. “Our goal turned from just me doing more of my own thing to once we had another jumper with me, I was like let’s go out here and score points at conference and really help each other try and make the jumps team perform as well as we could.”

This spring, Birzer is looking to build upon a 16th place finish at last season’s regional outdoor track meet. He was just four spots away from qualifying for the national outdoor competition. The friendly rivalry between the two jumpers has pushed them to chase higher bars, but they also offer lots of encouragement to each other along the way. Birzer and Holton know what to say to each other to get focused and motivated before their events.

“We’re good friends so when one of us is freaking out, which inevitably happens, or we’re having bad days, the other one is there to straighten them up and talk sense into the other,” Birzer said. “It’s been a good dynamic.”

Despite similar pedigrees — business students at Notre Dame, multisport athletes at their midwestern high schools — these two high jumpers have starkly different personalities. Preparation for each upcoming event is a team effort that seems to fit both Birzer and Holton well.

“Even outside of meets Hunter likes to worry about stuff and make sure everything is going to be right, and I like to clear my mind and relax,” Birzer said. “We’re pretty different in that sense but it fits together well.”

The friendship between the sophomore and junior high jumpers has proven to be a powerful force on the track. Holton’s advising contributed to Birzer’s breakout freshman season. Both athletes aim to raise the bar even higher at competitions this spring.


 

 

--ND--



Tyler Testin has been a Fighting Irish Media student writer since August of 2016. A Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, Testin is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame pursuing a degree in electrical engineering.

Event Calendar

Delta

March 17
N/A
Yellow Jacket Invitational
Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Tech-George C. Griffin Track)
RECAP
March 24
N/A
Raleigh Relays
Raleigh, N.C. (NC State-Paul Derr Track)
RECAP
March 25
12:00 PM
Raleigh Relays
Raleigh, N.C. (NC State-Paul Derr Track)
March 30
10:00 AM
Texas Relays
Austin, Texas (University of Texas-Mike Meyers Stadium)
March 31
10:00 AM
Texas Relays
Austin, Texas (University of Texas-Mike Meyers Stadium)
March 31
10:00 AM
Stanford Invitational
Palo Alto, Calif. (Stanford University-Cobb Track)
April 1
10:00 AM
Stanford Invitational
Palo Alto, Calif. (Stanford University-Cobb Track)
April 1
10:00 AM
Texas Relays
Austin, Texas (University of Texas-Mike Meyers Stadium)
April 7
11:00 AM
Sun Angel Track Classic
Tempe, Ariz. (Arizona State University-Sun Angel Track)
April 8
11:00 AM
Sun Angel Track Classic
Tempe, Ariz. (Arizona State University-Sun Angel Track)
April 15
12:00 PM
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Louisville, Ky. (University of Louisville-Cardinal Park)
April 21
10:00 AM
Virginia Challenge
Charlottesville, Va. (University of Virginia-Lannigan Field)
April 22
10:00 AM
Virginia Challenge
Charlottesville, Va. (University of Virginia-Lannigan Field)
April 22
11:00 AM
Michael Johnson Invitational
Waco, Texas (Baylor University-Clyde Hart T&F Stadium)
April 27
1:00 PM
Penn Relays
Philadelphia, Pa. (University of Penn-Ben Franklin Field)
April 28
12:00 PM
Gina Relays
Hillsdale, Mich. (Hillsdale College-Ken Herrick Track)
April 28
1:00 PM
Penn Relays
Philadelphia, Pa. (University of Penn-Ben Franklin Field)
April 29
12:00 PM
Gina Relays
Hillsdale, Mich. (Hillsdale College-Ken Herrick Track)
April 29
1:00 PM
Penn Relays
Philadelphia, Pa. (University of Penn-Ben Franklin Field)
May 6
3:00 PM
Billy Hayes Invitational
Bloomington, Ind. (Indiana University-Haugh Track Complex)
May 12
6:00 PM
ACC Outdoor Championships
Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Tech-George C. Griffin Track)
May 13
6:00 PM
ACC Outdoor Championships
Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Tech-George C. Griffin Track)
May 14
6:00 PM
ACC Outdoor Championships
Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Tech-George C. Griffin Track)
May 25
3:00 PM
NCAA East Regional
Lexington, Ky. (University of Kentucky-UK Track)
May 26
3:00 PM
NCAA East Regional
Lexington, Ky. (University of Kentucky-UK Track)
May 27
3:00 PM
NCAA East Regional
Lexington, Ky. (University of Kentucky-UK Track)
June 7
1:00 PM
NCAA Outdoor Championships
Eugene, Ore. (University of Oregon-Hayward Field)
June 8
1:00 PM
NCAA Outdoor Championships
Eugene, Ore. (University of Oregon-Hayward Field)
June 9
1:00 PM
NCAA Outdoor Championships
Eugene, Ore. (University of Oregon-Hayward Field)
June 10
1:00 PM
NCAA Outdoor Championships
Eugene, Ore. (University of Oregon-Hayward Field)

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