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ND Women’s Track: Young distance crew excelling indoors

Andrew Gastelum | Friday, February 18, 2011

Exactly one month ago, Irish coach Tim Connelly reflected with distress on his team’s performance at the Notre Dame Invitational, an early test that gauged the team’s overall strength and performance.

“After seeing our [race times], I would say that we have to work on just about everything,” Connelly said after the team’s performance in late January. “There are some really big gaps and a little inconsistency in our performances that are preventing us from realizing our true potential.”

At the time, the field events were the team’s only true strength, finishing with the top thrower along with the top three triple jumpers and the top two long jumpers, practically carrying the team.

Meanwhile, on the track side, and especially in the distance events, runners continued to struggle in finding their form, leading to sub-par results. That weekend, the distance team earned only two finishes in medal position at a meet that consisted of only four squads.

Something had to change, and the distance squad has since proven it was up for the challenge.

“As a team we want to be as competitive as we can in the Big East,” sophomore Rebecca Tracy said. “Coach [Connelly] just reminded us that if we really want to be competitive there is a lot of work to get done.”

Two meets later, the distance squad completely dominated the 1,000-meter run, finishing with four runners in the top five at the highly anticipated Meyo Invitational on Feb. 4, which included 46 other track teams. Even in the Meyo Mile, one of the nation’s most competitive races, the Irish placed fourth and fifth, respectively, led by Tracy (4:44.31) and freshman Alexa Aragon (4:56.75).

If there has been a constant for the distance team this year, it would be Tracy. The sophomore phenom began the year by posting the nation’s second-fastest mile time (4:42.14), more than eight seconds faster than her best freshman mark.

Tracy continued her success at Meyo by winning the highly competitive 1,000-meter run with a time of 2:48.18, leading her teammates with her prowess on the track.

“Her level of expectation changed [from last year to this year],” Connelly said. “It came down to a matter of just doing the work and changing the expectation of what you are doing to fit your potential.”

It seems as though Tracy’s young teammates have taken to her example. Three freshmen — McKinzie Schulz (2:51.45), Kelly Curran (2:53.30), and Aragon (2:54.47) — finished third, fifth and seventh, respectively, behind Tracy’s first-place finish at the Meyo Invitational.

“The whole thing is developmental,” Connelly said. “It takes [the freshmen] a while to get their feet on the ground. Being here, their definition of good is redefined and it is just a big learning experience. You just challenge them all and hope they respond.”