Twelve Irish athletes wrapped up their track seasons last week by competing in the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
With solid performances across the board, the standout performance came from senior Dylan Jacobs, who won the national title in the 10,000m. Jacobs was just the third Irish runner to ever win the event with Ryan Shay winning it in 2001 and Molly Seidel winning it in 2016.
Head coach Matt Sparks has been impressed with Jacobs’ ability to improve every year in college despite coming in as a highly touted high school recruit.
“He came in as a high school national champion,” Sparks said. “Rarely can athletes come in at such a high level and continue to build in college and continue to win.”
Jacobs wins title, must make eligibility decisionJacobs raced a nearly perfect race from a tactical standpoint. After falling early in the race, Jacobs settled into the lead pack and stayed in a great position over the entirety of the race. Heading into the final lap, Abdihamid Nur of Northern Arizona broke away from the pack, but Jacobs matched Nur stride-for-stride. Then, with just over 200m to go, Jacobs pulled away from Nur and held on to win the national title with a time of 28:12.32.
Sparks has been impressed with Jacobs’ leadership throughout his time at Notre Dame. “I am proud of the way he led with confidence and leadership through his four years here. And he most likely finished his college career with a win at the end,” Sparks said.
Jacobs has a year of eligibility left, but he has already graduated and could forgo that extra year to pursue professional running.
“He could take that extra year that COVID gave everyone or enter the professional running world,” Sparks said. “He’s weighing those options right now, and he is probably going to make that decision in the next two or three weeks.”
Jacobs’ season is not completely over yet as he will be competing in the 5,000m at the USA Track and Field Championships in two weeks, which are also in Eugene.
Markezhich, Tanczos post top-10 effortsAnother impressive performance came from junior Olivia Markezich, who placed ninth in the 3,000m steeplechase. Sparks acknowledged how important that ninth-place finish was for Markezich, especially considering the fast times in the race.
“That ninth place is a big step for her. The time is even more impressive. That’s the nineteenth fastest time in NCAA history in that event just to show you how fast that final was,” Sparks said. He also discussed Markezich’s improvement from a freshman walk-on to competing at the national meet.
“She’s come a long way. She’s a bit different than Dylan because she came in as a walk-on three years ago,” Sparks said. “With that came a little bit of insecurity. She’s super fit and super fast, but sometimes she’s just not sure how to utilize that fitness.”
Sparks expects Markezich to improve over her remaining two seasons as she continues to learn and gain confidence.
“She’s still really learning how to run the [steeplechase] race as a sophomore eligibility-wise,” Sparks said. “She’s got a couple of more years to move up, and as she gains confidence and learns a little bit more about the race and about herself we will expect to see bigger and better things.”
Tanczos ends career with personal bestSparks was also proud of graduate student thrower Rachel Tanczos, who just missed out on making the finals of the hammer throw. Sparks discussed Tanczos’ unusual journey to becoming one of the most decorated track athletes of all time at Notre Dame.
“Rachel came to Notre Dame as a walk-on athlete. She came to Notre Dame to be a part of the marching band,” Sparks said. “She wasn’t going to do track. For her to own numerous school records and several All-American accolades, I am proud of her for finishing off with a big throw to just miss making the final. I am proud of what she has done during her five years here.”
Record number of athletes have Irish looking at bright futureOther athletes competing in Eugene included sophomore Josh Methner (10,000m), senior Matthew Carmody (10,000m), graduate student Andrew Alexander (10,000m), junior Tom Seitzer (3000m steeplechase), senior Sam Voelz (800m), graduate student Tim Zepf (800m), graduate student John Stefan (shot put), junior Michael Shoaf (shot put), and senior Katie Rose Blachowicz (10,000m).
The twelve athletes competing in Eugene were the most in program history for the Irish.
“This was the most athletes we have ever taken to a NCAA championship, so that gives us a lot of momentum going forward,” Sparks said.
Sparks hopes the program can score higher at the NCAA championships in future years, and he believes he has the building blocks to do that.
“Going forward we would like to score more at the NCAA Championships. We return several athletes that can build into those roles. Josh Methner and Olivia [Markezich] are two of the kids that we feel could step into those bigger spots going forward,” Sparks said. “And then we have some kids that just missed out on making it that are going to be coming back that will give us something to look forward to in the future.”