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ND Women’s Track and Field: Atang looks for strong Big East appearance

Sam Gans | Thursday, February 3, 2011

The track and field career of Irish senior shotputter Rudy Atang did not begin quite as she anticipated.

Atang attended her first practice in fifth grade, and was planning on participating in the track portion of the sport. After a few instructions given from the coaching staff, however, she quickly changed her mind.

“I actually wanted to be a runner, but then the coaches [told] all the runners [to] go run a mile and a half,” Atang said. “I decided, ‘no, I don’t want to run a mile and a half, so I’ll go over with the throwers.'”

Luckily, for her and the Irish, she stuck with that choice.

Last season, Atang was one of the top throwers in the Big East. She placed ninth in the shot put in the conference’s indoor championships, with a distance of 14.19 meters. She then improved her mark in the Big East’s outdoor championships, with a throw of 15.02 meters, her best of the season. It was good enough for her to finish seventh, as well as score team points for Notre Dame with her top-eight finish.

Atang has continued to excel up to this point in the current indoor season, as well. She won the Notre Dame Invitational, at a distance of 14.94 meters, in addition to placing second in the Bob Eubanks Open (14.26 meters) and third at the Indiana Relays (15.10 meters).

The strong performances she has shown the past two seasons have earned the praise of her coach.

“Rudy has been our best thrower in the shot put the last couple of years,” Irish coach Tim Connelly said. “She should be a Big East scorer [again].”

While Connelly and the rest of the Irish have benefitted from Atang’s presence, they almost never had the opportunity. The Irish did not pursue Atang out of high school, and she nearly went to school elsewhere, before deciding to attend Notre Dame on a hunch.

“I was actually getting recruited by Rice University, and Notre Dame wasn’t recruiting me,” Atang said. “But last minute, for some reason, I just decided to come to Notre Dame.”

Atang, a double major in science pre-professional studies and anthropology, eventually worked her way onto the squad. Within a few years, she emerged into one of the premier throwers in the conference.

But Atang had to break through a potential set back this offseason. She needed to have surgery on her ankle after doctors discovered her tibia had extra bone growth. Her expected recovery time was a minimum of eight weeks. She was working out again within four.

Currently, Atang believes she is nearly fully recovered.

“I think pretty much now I’m back to normal, surprisingly,” she said. “I don’t really have any problems with it.”

Now, in her final year and with the surgery behind her, Atang has big expectations for herself this season.

“I expect obviously to score again,” she said. “And one of my biggest goals is to hit 50 feet (15.24 meters), which I’m very, very close to. It’d be great if I go well beyond that.”