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Men’s Track and Field: Coaches, players utilize first meet as starting point for season

Aaron Sant-Miller | Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Friday, Notre Dame looks to kick off its season when it hosts the annual Blue & Gold Invitational. This meet will be the first of four home meets held at the Loftus Center.

Competing against the Irish will be five other schools: Bethel College, Butler, DePaul, Detroit and Marquette. Despite the staunch competition, the Irish look to compete well in front of a home crowd, where they possess certain advantages.

“Competing at home is always an advantage,” junior All-American runner Jeremy Rae said. “We meet for practice every day at Loftus, so going and racing there is almost like another workout.

“We’re always comfortable and never get too nervous about it,” Rae said.

As the first meet, this competition provides a unique opportunity for the team and coaches to evaluate where the Irish stand as a team.

“It’s a meet to find out where we are in terms of our conditioning,” Irish coach Joe Piane said. “A lot of people haven’t competed yet this year unless they ran cross country, so it’s an opportunity to see where they are with their conditioning.”

Some of the distance runners coming off a grueling cross-country season are not even competing. Rae, who earned All-Big East honors this fall, helped the Irish finish 24th in the nation.

“This meet is really for the sprinters and the field guys,” Rae said. “They haven’t had the advantage of competing yet this year while we’re coming off a full-cross country season.”

Even though some of the top runners aren’t competing, Piane said Notre Dame’s competitive fire continues to burn.

“Anytime you go out and compete, it’s a big deal,” Piane said, “so it’s still very important in that respect. We’ll do very well. We have to.”

The Irish return a great deal of talented competitors who will be vying for top placements. With this talent comes leadership and experience that spans a variety of events.

“Our leadership is headed by [senior middle distance runner] Randall Babb, [senior pole-vaulter] Kevin Schipper and [senior thrower] Andy Hills,” Piane said. “They are all seniors and all three are very good competitors.”

The three leaders were met by considerable success last season, especially Schipper, who won the Big East championships for the second year in a row. Yet, all three are expected to reach new heights and push hard once again through the entire season.

“I have no doubt in my mind that they can take their success even further this year,” Piane said.

“This is an opportunity for us to get going, and that’s what we hope to do.”

They will look to do just that Friday evening at the Loftus Center. The field events start at 5:00 p.m., while the track events kick off at 6:00 p.m.


Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu