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Men and women throwers establish unique chemistry

Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When one pictures the recent successes of Notre Dame on the track, images of sub-four minute miles, record-breaking jumps and Big East championship trophies all come to mind. There is another part of the squad that often goes unnoticed, however.

They do the dirty work and heavy lifting, literally, behind the scenes. Whether they are hurling a hammer, discus or shot, the Irish throwers are a dynamic force in competition and a tight-knit group outside of it.

While most of the team hits the track every day, the throwers are often on their own, doing their own specialized practices. Under the guidance of assistant coach Adam Beltran, the athletes practice every day in the fall, winter and spring.

“We go down to the rings and throw almost every day,” junior thrower Andy Hills said. “We’ve got a different practice routine depending on where we are that week, and in addition to that, we’re in the weight room three days a week.”

With all that time spent together, the men and women of the throwing team form a unique bond as a small, dedicated group of athletes. Between practice, meets and travel, the members have gotten to know each other very well and have build a unique chemistry between them.

“We’re probably one of the closer teams on campus,” Hills said. “In the past, [Irish coach Joe] Piane has called us [a] cult. We have our own inside jokes, and we always eat together on trips.”

That unity has also helped the throwers in competition, and they have made a significant impact on the overall track and field team this year.

On the women’s side, Rudy Atang, a standout hurler, has been a leader for the squad in more ways than one.

“Rudy has had a really great year,” Hills said. “She set school records in the indoor and outdoor seasons in the shot put, but she still works as hard as anybody in practice and the weight room. She also really tries to help the underclassmen improve, especially the freshmen.”

The throwers have also been a huge piece in the recent successes of the men’s team, winning two of the past three Big East men’s regular season titles. In their outdoor conference victory last year, the throwers put Notre Dame, which sat in fourth heading into the final day, over the top.

Senior Denes Veres won the shot put with a throw of 18.57 meters, and Irish throwers took five of the top eight spots in the hammer throw to help lead the charge.

“We had a huge impact on the men’s team at the Big East meet last year, and we had a large number of guys step up for us there,” Hills said. “We like to think we’ve been a pretty big part of our team’s success over the past couple of years.”

Heading into this year’s edition of the outdoor Big East championships, which will take place this weekend in Villanova, Penn., the Irish throwers once again seem primed to make a difference. After a series of strong performances, the group is peaking at the right time, and they may need another elite performance.

After losing to Connecticut by less than five points at the indoor championships, the outdoor Big East title may come down to a single throw.

“Everyone is practicing pretty well,” Hills said. “It’s been an up-and-down season for us, but we seem to be riding a high right now, and that’s what you want heading into these big championship meets.”