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Track & Field: Season opens with Blue and Gold meet Friday

Chris Michalski | Friday, December 4, 2009

The Notre Dame track and field squad will open its indoor season this Friday in its annual Blue and Gold Meet, held in Loftus Center.

With cross country just finishing up, this one-day event will give Irish athletes a chance to compete as a team and see where everyone stands physically.

“This is the first time of the year where everyone gets together as a group, because you have the cross country kids doing something and we have kids working at different times during the day,” head coach Joe Piane said.

Notre Dame will be host to DePaul, Detroit Mercy and Marquette, the same schools that were invited the past two years.

“[The Blue and Gold Meet] is essentially a glorified time trial so we’re looking to see what kind of shape kids are in,” Piane said. “And we’re really interested in the sprinters and field events kids because they have had no opportunities to compete, whereas the cross country kids have been competing throughout the fall.”

The Irish had success in last year’s Blue and Gold Meet, with then-senior Mary Saxer qualifying for the NCAA Championships in the pole vault in the first meet of the season. Including Saxer, who ultimately placed third in the Pole Vault in the Championships and was named to the Track and Field All-Academic Team, the Irish lost a total of 18 seniors from last season, including distance runner Patrick Smyth, who placed fourth in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Championships and was named a First-Team Academic All-American.
Despite the losses, the Irish also return a variety of talent, including seniors Joanna Schultz and Jaclyn Espinoza, junior NCAA Decathlon competitor Justin Schneider and 2009 Big East Pole Vault Champion senior Matt Schipper. Espinoza has been a consistent contributor over the years, reaching the NCAA Finals for three consecutive years and placing third overall in the discus last year.

The Irish as a team set the bar high last year, taking first in the Big East Men’s Outdoor Championships and second in the Indoor Championships. The women’s team, despite playing fifth in the Big East Outdoor Championships, sent four athletes to the NCAAs and placed 24th overall, compared to the men’s 48th place.

The high jump and pole vault will mark the start of the meet at 5 p.m. followed by the first running events, the 60-meter hurdles, at 6 p.m.