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ND WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD: Irish shine, demonstrate potential in invites

Ryan Kiefer | Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Two meets, one victory and – most importantly – six NCAA regional qualifications.

So the stat line reads for the Notre Dame women’s track team following one of the best weekends of the year for the squad.

The Irish sent their best distance runners to Palo Alto, Calif. this weekend to compete in the Stanford Invitational, widely considered one of the premier events on the collegiate track slate.

Notre Dame’s runners shined as junior Stephanie Madia triumphed over a field of 26 runners to win the 5,000-meter race. Her time was the eighth best in the United States this season. Madia realized the significance of her accomplishment.

“It was great to have an opportunity to run in a race like Stanford with all of the competition,” Madia said. “Winning that race tells me I’m in good shape at this point in the season. It was good to post a time this early in the year.”

Teammate Sunni Olding finished less than a second behind Madia, rounding out an impressive 1-2 finish in a race that Coach Tim Connelly termed “NCAA level competition.” Both runners qualified for the NCAA regional meet with their times. Madia commented on the teamwork between her and Olding.

“Sunni has been amazing,” she said. “She’s a great training partner and a great friend. I think that since we run together everyday, we’ll be able to push each other to reach our goals.”

Katie DeRusso also qualified for the NCAA regional with a third-place finish in the steeplechase. Junior high jumper Stacey Cowan broke out of a recent slump by clearing 1.78 meters. The jump was Cowan’s best in over a month and earned her a third place finish.

While distance runners were in California, sprinters and hurdlers were in Waco, Texas at the Dr. Pepper Invitational hosted by Baylor University. Sophomore sprinter Maryann Erigha once again starred for the Irish. A week after winning the 200 meters at the Willie Williams Invitational, the sophomore turned in personal best times in both the 100 and 200 meters. Her marks earned her a second- and third-place finish, respectively, and qualified her for the regional meet in both events.

The Irish now move on, relishing their success this weekend, but also keeping in mind long-term goals. After her race, Madia was asked about goals for herself and the team this season. Her response showed the determination she and the rest of the Irish possess.

“We want to win the Big East and qualify as many girls as we can for NCAAs,” she said. “Last year I ran NCAAs but didn’t run my best, partly because I felt like I didn’t belong. This year, I want to feel like I belong at the championships, and we as team belong there.”