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Irish host top teams at Invite

Joe Meixell | Friday, February 6, 2004

Many of the top track squads in America will meet in the Loftus Sports Center this weekend as the annual Meyo Invitational begins tonight at 7 p.m. The two-day meet will continue Saturday morning at 10 a.m., with the finals beginning at 2 p.m.

Notre Dame is expected to face off against strong competition on both the men’s and women’s sides. The meet favorite is Arkansas, ranked first in the men’s poll and eleventh in the women’s, according to Trackwire.com. Alabama, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Georgetown, Mississippi, Wake Forest, Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan, Butler, Ball State and Western Carolina headline the 63-team field.

The Irish women are have had success thus far, as they are currently ranked 21st nationally. They are led by junior Tiffany Gunn and senior Kristen Dodd. Both are members of the 4×400 meter relay team that ranks first in the Big East. Gunn is also currently in the top ten in the conference in the 500 meters, 60-meter hurdles and the 400 meters. Dodd has already qualified for the conference meet in the 200 meters.

Molly Huddle and Lauren King have had much success in the distance events so far this season. Last weekend at the Notre Dame Invitational, Huddle broke her own school record in the 3,000 meters while King sped to the second-fastest mile in the country so far this season with a time of 4:45.61.

Both Huddle and King are returning All-Americans in their respective events and should be among the top athletes to watch at the meet this weekend.

On the men’s side, distance runners Eric Morrison, Kaleb Van Ort and Todd Mobley will be ready to compete for the Irish, while the weight-throwing tandem of Juan Alba and Chip Roberts should hold their own.

Morrison spent last weekend with the distance medley relay team at the USA Track and Field Boston Indoor Meet. Both Van Ort and Mobley stayed at home last week and qualified for the conference championships.

Freshman pole vaulter Dave Viken is confident in his team’s abilities heading into one of the biggest meets of the year.

“We know we’ll be facing some tough competition, but I feel the team is prepared and we’ll be successful,” Viken said.

Viken has already qualified for the Big East Conference championships while his teammate, freshman Justin Oppel, won the pole vault in last week’s meet.

The top sprinter for the Irish men is Selim Nurudeen. The junior has already qualified for the conference meet in the 60 meters, 60-meter hurdles and the 200 meters.

Senior Godwin Mbagwu will also be a contender as he currently leads the Big East in the triple jump and ranks fourth in the long jump.