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ND Women’s Track and Field: Young squad looks strong at Invitational

Andrew Gastelum | Monday, January 24, 2011

When the Irish took to the track Saturday afternoon, they didn’t know what to expect from their young and rising squad. But by night’s end, the women’s team found hope in the field events, dominating the Notre Dame Invitational with three first place finishes.

Senior thrower Rudy Atang utilized her experience to lead the Irish to first place in the shot put with a throw of 14.94 meters. Meanwhile, young jumpers sophomore Lauren Leniart and freshman Kelly Burke finished first in their respective events, with Leniart jumping for 5.47 meters in the long jump and Burke going for 11.37 meters in the triple jump. Senior Jasmine Williams also added two second-place finishes with a long jump of 5.41 meters and a triple jump spanning 11.16 meters, helping the Irish sweep the triple jump with all three finishes in the top three.

“I was extremely proud of how [the field events] got off to a really good start with some of their first performances of the year,” Irish coach Tim Connelly said. “I was especially impressed with Rudy [Atang]. She looked great and this meet was really important for her, considering the fact that she is coming off of surgery in the offseason that limited what she was able to do.”

In addition to the strong performance by the field participants, sophomore long-distance runner Rebecca Tracy squeaked out a win in the 1,600-meter race, running the mile in a time of 4:42.14, besting her previous personal record by three seconds. With her performance, Tracy posted the second-fastest mile time in the nation, a mark her coach believes could be a qualifying time for the NCAA Regionals.

“Rebecca is just so talented and is really beginning to find her stride,” Connelly said. “She is starting to get confident that she can perform at such a high level and it shows through [Saturday’s] time.”

But the Irish are looking for more consistency throughout the running events, as only six of their runners finished in the top three in their events.

“After seeing our finishes, I would say that we have to work on just about everything,” Connelly said. “There are some really big gaps and a little inconsistency in our performances that are preventing us from realizing our true potential.”

The Notre Dame Invitational, which was held inside the Loftus Sports Complex, also featured squads from DePaul, Western Michigan and Michigan State that created an extremely competitive meet early on in the year, something that Connelly hopes to build on.

“Being the first home meet this early in the year, we were really looking to see where we were at, gauge our performance and see how we could improve,” he said.

The Irish will look to improve on their performance when they travel to Indiana University to take part in the Indiana Relays, starting on Jan. 29.