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ND?Track and Field: Outdoor track season begins

Alex West and Nathaniel Lee | Friday, March 27, 2009

Once the successful indoor track season came to a close three weeks ago, the Irish set their sights to the start of the outdoor season against some top collegiate talent.

The Irish kick off the 2009 outdoor track season out west with the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Cal. for the distance runners and Arizona State Invitational in Tempe, Arizona for the sprints and the field events.

Irish coach Joe Piane said he isn’t concerned about this being the first outdoor meet of the year.

“There isn’t much difference between indoor and outdoor meets,” Piane said. “Some runners are just running different distances.”

Junior Joanna Schultz and senior Mary Saxer headline the Irish women’s team. Both were indoor season All-Americans, Schultz in the 400-meter dash and Saxer in the pole vault.

Piane said he thinks that the two women’s success has not come as a surprise to them or the team.

“Everyone knew that [Schultz and Saxer] were studs to being with,” Piane said. “This doesn’t change anything about their perception by their teammates.”

On the men’s side, senior Patrick Smyth and junior Matt Schipper earned All-American honors in the 3000-meter race. Smyth and junior pole vaulter Matt Schipper represented the Irish at the NCAA Indoor Championships last weekend.

The fields at both invitationals contain some of the best teams from around the country, including No. 1 Texas A&M and top 25 team Arizona State.

“[The competition] is outstanding,” Piane said. “Our team will be extremely challenged. This is one of the biggest distance events in the country.”

The Stanford Invitational begins on Friday afternoon with preliminary races and concludes on Saturday with the finals. The Arizona State Invitational begins on Friday as will with the primary event beings the hammer toss. Saturday morning contains the preliminary races and field events with the finals being in the afternoon.