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Track and Field: Big East meet awaits Irish

Bill Brink | Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Notre Dame runners have a lot to live up to as a select few travel to Storrs, Conn., this weekend to compete in the Big East championship.

The men are the defending conference champions at the George J. Sherman-Family Sports Complex, while the women hope to improve on their second-place performance from last season.

Championship races inspire a slightly different disposition in the runners.

“It’s in the back of my mind,” freshman Jake Walker said. “I want to perform my best at the championships. I’ll go out and run as well as I can.”

Walker is not currently qualified for the NCAA Mideast regional meet, something he may be able to do at the Big East championship.

The meet will be close, since Louisville appears to be Notre Dame’s toughest competition.

“We’re gonna need everything we’ve got to beat Louisville because they’re adding additional points that they didn’t get against us indoors with some of their outdoor events,” senior Ryan Postel said. “It’s gonna be tough to beat them.”

Postel is currently nursing an injured hamstring and the races he will run in the championship meet are not yet determined. He hopes to be able to compete in both the 4×400 meter relay and the 200-meter dash, but may have to choose one or the other.

“It’s kind of going to come down to points,” he said. “The real difference is, can I, on my bum leg, help us more by attempting to run a 200 not at my top speed and get, say, five points, or is it going to come down to us having to put a larger margin than five points between us and Louisville.”

Postel was able to run at almost full speed in practice Monday and will test the leg in the 200 dash over the course of the week.

The other runners have begun reducing their workouts before their races.

“It’s the latter part of the season. I’m not going to kill myself,” Walker said. “I usually cut down runs a little a few days before. I’ll do strides and sprints to loosen up. I don’t want to do too much.”

The Big East meet is more of a team atmosphere than the Irish have experienced in recent meets. Rather than going for individual qualifying times, the runners compete in a cumulative effort for the whole team.

“My personal goal is to get in the top eight and score points for my team,” Walker said.

One runner is in good position to do so. Freshman Balazs Molnar holds the fastest time in the conference in the 400-meter hurdles. But sitting atop the field means he has to deal with the baggage that comes with that position.

“I feel pressure because everybody told me I have to win this event,” he said. “I try to do my best. It’s a really big pressure.”