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Loftus celebrates 25th year

By JACK HEFFERON | Thursday, March 3, 2011

One of the key factors to Notre Dame’s success on the track turned 25 this year. No, it’s not an aging fifth-year senior or a newly hired assistant coach. It’s the Meyo Track, one of the premier indoor tracks in the country.

The Loftus Sports Center was completed in 1985 and began hosting Irish athletes not long after. The nearly 130,000 square foot facility houses Meyo Field, where several other varsity teams practice and play early season games. More importantly for Irish coach Joe Piane and his team, though, is the 400-meter track that surrounds it. That size makes it one of the largest indoor tracks in America, and its wide turns makes it one of the fastest as well. Even its Mondo surface material is respected as the fastest in the world. The Irish have the benefit of practicing on this state of the art circuit throughout the year, and they have reaped the rewards, winning two of the past three Big East championships.

“We are very fortunate to have the Loftus Center,” senior captain Jack Howard said. “It’s one of the best indoor facilities in the country. It gives us a place to train during the cold winter months and its size allows for a lot of people to use it at the same time.”

Another benefit of using the Meyo Track is that by practicing on a larger track and wider turns, Notre Dame’s runners often have an easier transition to the 400-meter outdoor track in the spring season.

“Being able to train in there, it helps the guys to finish the indoor season and gain some momentum heading into the outdoor season,” Howard said.

Perhaps the largest benefit of the Meyo Track for the Irish is the fact that they can host high-quality meets, allowing them to face the best competition in the nation without traveling. This season, the Irish scheduled four indoor meets in the Loftus Center. The Blue-Gold meet and the Notre Dame Invitational were two smaller, early-season meets that helped the Irish to prepare for the bulk of their schedule.

The Meyo Invitational, one of the nation’s premier collegiate meets, was held last month, and it more than lived up to its reputation. Fast times were on display throughout the invitational, as sophomore Jeremy Rae won the mile in sub-four minute fashion, and Alabama’s Kirani James ran the 400 meters in 45.47 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year.

“It is nice to have this great facility because we get to host some national caliber meets right here at home on a track that we are very familiar with, which is definitely a plus,” Howard said.

The final home meet of the year for the Irish is the Alex Wilson Invitational, which will take place this Friday and Saturday. Elite athletes will once again descend on South Bend, while the Irish will look to perform well enough to qualify for the NCAA championships in Texas.

“The Wilson meet this weekend is the last chance for everybody to qualify for Nationals,” Howard said. “We have high hopes to get a DMR [distance medley relay] qualified as well as several individual qualifiers in various events.”

With a track as fast as Meyo, qualifying performances might be just a fouth of a mile away.