Notre Dame's Molly Seidel sizzles for another NCAA championship

Tim Creason
Tribune Correspondent

Molly Seidel’s third NCAA championship looked a whole lot like the first two.

Steady at the start, sizzling at the finish, dropping her opponents one-by-one until nobody was left.

“Really, it was a matter of squeezing that pace down and seeing who held on,” said Seidel, a Notre Dame senior who won the women’s 5,000-meter run Friday at the NCAA indoor track & field championships.

Methodically cranking out 36-second splits on a 200-meter track, Seidel took an early lead, then briefly allowed her teammate – freshman Anna Rohrer – to take over for a couple laps. Then it was back to the front, with Seidel surging away to finish first in 15:15.21.

Michigan’s Erin Finn – the only competitor who attempted to give chase – placed second in 15:23.16.

Rohrer, the former Mishawaka High School star, came home fourth in 15:54.53. Together, Rohrer and Seidel accounted for 15 of the 18 points scored by Notre Dame on the first day of the NCAA meet, which concludes this evening in Birmingham, Ala.

The Irish are third in the women’s standings. Georgia leads the field with 27 points.

Notre Dame’s distance medley (1200-400-800-1600) relay of Jessica Harris, Parker English, Jamie Marvil and Danielle Aragon finished sixth overall, clocking 11:01.86.

In the men’s competition, Notre Dame pole vaulter Nate Richartz finished eighth, clearing 17 feet, 6-1/2 inches.

The women’s 5,000 was the feature event of Friday’s program. The NCAA itself billed the race as a “rematch for the ages,” with Seidel facing Boise State phenom Allie Ostrander.

Seidel beat Ostrander – a freshman from Alaska – by about five seconds at the NCAA cross country championships last fall. Friday’s race was supposed to be another epic battle between the pair, with a chance that the NCAA meet record might fall.

But midway through the race, Ostrander stepped off the track, citing a knee injury to ESPN reporters. That left Seidel pretty much on her own over the last 1,000 meters. She missed the meet record by three seconds.

“I told myself, just make (the pace) as even as possible and go after that good time,” said Seidel in a television interview afterwards.

When the field was bunched together early in the race, ESPN commentator Dwight Stones suggested the Irish were employing “team tactics” as Seidel and Rohrer ran together at the front. But in the end, Seidel almost lapped Rohrer.

Seidel and Rohrer get another chance to score big points for the Irish this evening when they race the women’s 3,000-meter run.

Fans can watch a replay of the meet on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. Sunday (EDT).

NCAA INDOOR TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Women’s 5,000-meter run: 1, Molly Seidel (Notre Dame) 15:15.21. 2, Erin Finn (Michigan) 15:23.16. 3, Chelsea Blaase (Tennessee) 15:42.47. 4, Anna Rohrer (Notre Dame) 15:54.53. 5, Erika Kemp (No Carolina St) 15:58.00. 6, Sharon Lokedi (Kansas) 15:58.61. 7, Hannah Everson (Air Force) 16:04.37. 8, Courtney Smith (Harvard) 16:04.86. 9, Ednah Kurgat (Liberty) 16:07.18. 10, Liv Westphal (Boston College) 16:11.92. 11, Tessa Barrett (Penn St) 16:25.94. 12, Sarah Collins (Providence) 16:33.96. 13, Tori Gerlach (Penn St) 16:45.56. 14, Molly Grabill (Oregon) 16:51.25. DNF – Allie Ostrander (Boise State), Christina Melian (Stony Brook).

NCAA champion Molly Seidel of Notre Dame (right) guides freshman Anna Rohrer (left) around a turn during the women's 3,000-meter run at the Notre Dame Invitational in January. (Tribune Photo/TIM CREASON)