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ND WOMEN’S TRACK: Irish to compete at Stanford and Baylor on break

Joe Meixell | Thursday, March 24, 2005

So much for easing into the outdoor track season.A core group of Irish women’s distance runners will compete this weekend in one of the most competitive meets of the season – the Stanford Invitational Friday and Saturday in Palo Alto, Calif. This will be the first outdoor meet for these runners who rested last weekend. The field is expected to be large and extremely competitive this weekend. This meet is considered one of the premier events in the country, as it will attract several track powerhouses from the West Coast. This includes the host Cardinal, who finished 8th as a team at the NCAA indoor championships.The Irish are expected to send the same distance squad that ran to a second-place finish at the Big East meet last month. These athletes include Stephanie Madia, Sunni Olding, Katie DeRusso, Amy Kohlmeier, Elizabeth Webster, Jackie Carter and Brianne Schmidt. Coach Tim Connelly defended his decision to run in the meet, showing confidence in his athletes.”I wouldn’t bring these girls unless I thought they could compete,” he said. “There are only a handful of opportunities to run in a top meet like this. We want to take advantage of this NCAA-level competition.”While the distance runners are at Stanford this weekend, a limited number of sprinters, hurdlers and throwers will be at Baylor University for the Dr. Pepper Invitational. This meet will feature many of the athletes who competed at the University of Arizona last weekend, including NCAA regional qualifier Maryann Erigha and long sprint standout Okechi Ogbuokiri. Connelly explained that the transition to outdoors is usually more difficult for the sprinters and hurdlers.”They’re running different races outside,” he said. “Instead of the 60, they are running the 100; instead of 100-meter hurdles they now run 400-meter hurdles. It’s the same for the throwers. Outside we add the javelin and the discus. These athletes need the outdoor experience.”The goal for all athletes this week is to achieve standards that will qualify them for the NCAA regional meet. Connelly felt confident that these marks were within the reach of several of his athletes.”If you look at the standards, they are reasonable. Regionals is a realistic goal for a number of our athletes, certainly the ones going to Stanford. We qualified 15 women across all events last year, and I think we can have a similar number go this year,” said Connelly. Those not competing this weekend are expected to make their outdoor debut when Notre Dame sends a full squad to their meet next weekend at Purdue.