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Women’s Track and Field: ND to open up home slate

Sam Gans | Friday, January 21, 2011

The Irish return home this week, competing for the first time on Notre Dame’s campus since early December.

The Irish welcome Michigan State, DePaul and Western Michigan to this weekend’s indoor Notre Dame Invitational with the hope of building upon last weekend’s performance in the Bob Eubanks Open at Grand Valley State.

Though the Irish brought limited numbers to last weekend’s competition, they still posted several top performances, as sophomore Rebecca Tracy won the 800-meter run with a time of 2:09.05, and senior Rudy Atang came in second in the shotput with a distance of 14.26 meters.

This weekend will be the first time since the Blue and Gold Meet on Dec. 3 that the full Irish squad will be participating.

“We had a meet in December, just to kind of figure out where we’re at, and then we had basically a month off,” Irish coach Tim Connelly said. “The Christmas vacation was a week longer this year. Most people like that, but I think it kind of hurt you because it took away a week of training and competing.”

As this weekend is only the second competition of the season for most of the team, Connelly knows just how important a test this Saturday will be.

“Saturday is kind of like ‘OK, where are we at?'” he said. “It’s just a step to kind of see where we’re at and how far we have to go before the conference meet, which is a month from now.”

The Irish are expected to rely on a broad range of players to rack up top honors this weekend. Three senior middle-distance runners are expected to be key contributors in Kelly Langhans, Natalie Johnson and Abby Higgins.

Connelly realizes a deep and versatile squad is necessary to have a successful team, especially in conference competition.

“If you’re going to have a good track team, you have to have a bunch of kids covering a lot of different bases,” he said.

Connelly said he believes in the importance of indoor track. Rather than a simple preparation for the outdoor campaign, he also said it is vital to win indoors in January, February and early March, not just the spring.

“It’s track. You don’t say we take indoors more seriously than outdoors, or vice versa,” Connelly said. “The Big East holds a championship for both indoors and outdoors, so obviously we’ve got an obligation to be at our best for both.”

The Irish begin their 2011 home schedule at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Loftus Sports Center.