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Big East Championships await Irish

Mike Gilloon | Friday, February 20, 2004

The Notre Dame indoor track and field teams go into this weekend’s Big East Championships looking to add to their trophy cases. The men are the defending champions and a repeat title is on their minds. The women won two years ago and, after a second place finish last year, they are in position to reclaim their title.

However, winning the meet, to be held in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., will be no easy task for either squad.

The women, currently ranked No. 17 by Trackwire.com, will see their main competition coming from No. 12 and defending conference champion Miami Hurricanes.

Sprinter Ayesha Boyd expects the Irish to give Miami a run for their money this weekend.

“They are dominant in every event, and we would love to go out and beat them,” Boyd said.

Among the favorites expected to contend for an individual title is sophomore distance runner Molly Huddle. Her 3,000-meter time of 9:08.60 is second in the conference to Providence’s Kim Smith.

Huddle is also a member of the women’s distance medley relay team along with Lauren King, Kristen Dodd and Kerry Meagher. Huddle and King were members of last year’s team that won the conference title. They are poised to repeat this year if they can knock off Georgetown. The Hoyas defeated the Irish at the Meyo Invitational two weeks ago by 0.67 seconds. King, a junior, is the defending conference champ in the mile and is expected to contend again this year.

Senior Boyd and junior Tiffany Gunn lead a strong pack of Irish sprinters set to score big team points. Gunn, out of Little Rock, Ark., has qualified for the meet in the 60-meter hurdles as well as the 200, 400 and 500 meters.

Boyd is qualified in the 60-meter dash along with the 200 and 400 meters. She took third place in the 60-meter dash in last year’s conference meet.

The men’s team should see its stiffest competition from Connecticut and Georgetown. Those squads finished second and third respectively in last year’s meet and both return numerous placers.

The men will use the experience of veterans like senior Godwin Mbagwu and juniors Selim Nurudeen and Trevor McClain-Duer to keep their hold on the conference championship. Nurudeen, a Friendswood, Tex native, placed second in the 60-meter hurdles at last year’s Big East meet. Presently he has the top time in the Big East in that event at 7.79 seconds.

Mbagwu is the defending conference outdoor champ in the long jump. Presently, he is fourth in the Big East in that category while he is ranked first in the triple jump with a distance of 15.31 meters.

McClain-Duer will join sophomore Ryan Postel as the favorites to win the 400-meters. Postel ranks third in the conference with a time of 47.33 seconds while McClain-Duer is in eighth place at 48.00 seconds.

The Irish men have won every conference indoor 5,000-meter championship since Notre Dame joined the Big East in 1996. Senior Todd Mobley and sophomore Kaleb Van Ort will try to keep the tradition alive as they currently rank third and fourth in the conference respectively.

Sophomore Thomas Chamney and junior Eric Morrison will compete in the 800 meters. Both are in the top ten of the conference in that category.