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Seniors pumped for annual Big East meet

Mike Gilloon | Wednesday, February 18, 2004

When most people think of track, they don’t picture a physical altercation. But most people never asked Juan Alba.

“It’s always a big dog fight in there,” Alba said of the Big East indoor track and field Championships. “I just want to take out the guy in front of me.”

While Alba won’t actually be beating anyone up this weekend, his words aptly describe the career success of this year’s group of seniors.

The men are the defending conference champs and are primed for a repeat title this weekend in Syracuse, N.Y. behind the efforts of seniors like distance runners Mark Barber and Kevin Somok, triple jumper Godwin Mbagwu and Alba.

The women’s team is ranked No. 17 by Trackwire.com. In addition to senior sprinters Ayesha Boyd and Kristen Dodd, senior pole-vaulter Jill Van Weelden also helps to lead the team.

Boyd is ecstatic just to be competing in her last season in an Irish uniform.

The Spartanburg, S.C. native was out with a leg injury for most of last season and her main goal was to remain healthy this year.

“I think I accomplished that goal,” she said. “I also am proud of the fact that I improved in every meet this year.”

Boyd’s strong-willed attitude will help her team as the Irish try to dethrone defending champion and No. 12 Miami this weekend.

“Our main goal for this meet is to beat out Miami,” she said.

Alba is also anticipating a very competitive meet this weekend.

“There might be some people out there who are a little bitter that we won the meet last year so we will have to be ready to defend our title,” he said.

He will be helped out by senior teammates like Mbagwu, who is the top contender going into this weekend’s triple jump with a season best mark of 15.31 meters.

Mbagwu is also the defending outdoor Big East champion in the triple jump.

Other seniors such as Barber and Somok should add valuable experience to the team.

Barber has competed in the 4×400 meters and the 60-meter hurdles in the conference meet during his career, while Somok has been a member of the 4×800 relay team along with finishing sixth in the conference last year in the 1,000 meters.

The women’s side has experience too as Dodd qualified for last year’s meet in the 60-meters and the 400-meters along with winning the 4×100 relay at the 2001 and 2002 Big East outdoor Championships.

Van Weelden was fourth in the conference pole vault her sophomore year.

As the Big East will essentially break apart after this year, Alba wants to go out a winner.

“Knowing this is my last year and the last year of the conference it would mean a lot to go out a winner,” he said.

Boyd feels the same as she approaches her final indoor conference meet.

“Every year the chemistry on our team has grown, and it would mean a lot to go out as a winner my senior year,” she said. “But even if we don’t win, I will still be proud.”