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ND Women’s Track: Beltran brought in to aid Irish throws

Joe Meixell | Friday, December 7, 2007

Irish assistant coach Tim Connelly, whose Notre Dame team finished second in last year’s Big East Indoor meet and won in 2002 and 2006, brought in a new assistant this year to help the Irish regain the crown – throws coach Adam Beltran.

Beltran, who came to Notre Dame from St. Francis University in Pennsylvania, will help coach the Irish in their annual Blue and Gold Invitational against DePaul and Marquette today. Throwers under Beltran at St. Francis won 20 Northeast Conference titles in throws events.

“He is a great teacher. The kids respond really well to him,” Connelly said. “The results have been very positive with him, and the kids are excited to have him here.”

Junior Anna Weber is the top returning thrower for Notre Dame. Last year, she set two school records, one in the weight throw at the Big East Indoor championships, and one in the hammer throw in the Outdoor championships.

For the distance races, two-time cross country All-America senior Sunni Olding will lead the Irish after sitting out the 2007 season with an injury. She will try to fill the void left by 10-time All-America Molly Huddle. Sophomore Lindsey Ferguson will also be counted on to step up after she established a new school record in the 3000-meter steeplechase last year and finished third in the Big East conference meet.

In addition to the returning runners, the Irish will look for freshman Marissa Treece, who won two high school national track titles in the 5000 meter run, to carry some of the load.

“She is a talented kid who had an outstanding senior high school season,” Connelly said of Treece.

Unfortunately for the Irish, many of the distance runners are suffering from injury or illness from fall training. Both Olding and Treece have been plagued by injury or illness during the fall, and it could be as long as February before either one is back in top condition.

“Hopefully they can both get back to full health and be contributors soon,” Connelly said.

The Irish will have to turn to youth in the sprint events. After losing seniors Maryann Erigha and Okechi Ogbuokiri, only sophomore Joanna Schultz and senior Chrysta Swayzer return. Freshmen Natalie Johnson, from Inglewood, Ariz., and Kali Watkins from Newport News, Va., will be counted on heavily to make contributions. Watkins was a high school All-American in the 60-meter hurdles.

Junior Mary Saxer will return to compete in the pole vault. She is the current Notre Dame record holder for the event with a high of 13-3 1/2 inches and is a two-time All-Big East performer.

Connelly sees this meet as a measuring stick for his athletes before they head home for winter break.

“The first meet is used to see where we are at. It gives our jumpers, throwers and runners a chance to compete,” he said. “They have been training since September, and it will be nice to see where they are at before they leave for finals and take a break from training.”

No matter what happens Friday, however, the Irish have bigger goals for the future, Connelly said.

“There are three months until the Big East meet and that is what we are most concerned about.”