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WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD: Team finishes 2nd at Big East for 3rd straight year

Ryan Kiefer | Sunday, February 20, 2005

A disappointing trend continued for Notre Dame this weekend at the Big East Indoor Championships, as the Irish finished in second place for the third straight year. With defending conference champion Miami moving to the ACC, the Irish figured to be in prime position to ascend to the top spot this year. This was not to be, however, as the Irish were beaten by a deeper, well-rounded Pittsburgh team. Notre Dame finished with 140 team points, while the Panthers amassed 160.5 points. Georgetown was third with 90 points. It was clear early on this would be a two-team meet. Both the Irish and the Panthers had successful qualifying heats, putting them in ideal position for Sunday’s finals. Pittsburgh came through on the final day with five individual event wins while the Irish managed only two. Tiffany Gunn was the Big East champion in the 500 meters, and Okechi Ogbuokiri was the conference champion in the 400 meters. Pittsburgh asserted itself early in the meet as it placed four in the top 10 in both the 60- and 200-meter races. The Irish responded by cutting into this early lead on the strength of long sprinters Gunn and Ogbuokiri. As the day progressed, the Irish figured to gain points in the distance events, a perceived strength of the team. The Panthers held the Irish in check, though, using victories in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters to propel themselves into the lead. The decisive blow was delivered in the field events where the Irish were outscored 67.5 to 42, including 28 to 8 in the two throwing events. Other Irish athletes turned in several stellar performances apart from the efforts of Gunn and Ogbuokiri. Maryann Erigha turned in two second-place finishes in the 60- and 200-meter races. Stephanie Madia led the Irish distance runners with second-place finishes in the mile and the 3,000-meters. Perennial all-American Molly Huddle, hampered by a foot injury sustained during the cross country season, finished second in the 5,000-meters in her first race this season. Sunni Olding also turned in a solid third place effort in the 3,000-meters.Stacey Cowan led the Irish field athletes with a second-place finish in the high jump and a third-place effort in the pentathlon. Meghan Horn threw her way to a second-place finish in the shot put, and Petra Dankova finished third in the long jump. The Irish will now shift their focus to finishing the indoor season on a high note. With the NCAA Indoor Championships meet just three weeks away, the Irish want to put themselves in position to contend with the country’s best. They will be in Boston next weekend to compete in the USA Track and Field Indoor meet.