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Track and Field: Notre Dame excels at Open

Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

After a month-long break, Notre Dame opened 2012 with a strong showing as the Irish wracked up four first place finishes at the Bob Eubanks Open in Allendale, Mich. over the weekend.

The meet, hosted by Grand Valley State, pitted the Irish against fellow Big East opponent South Florida, Michigan State and a variety of Division III schools, providing a strong test for Notre Dame in their first meet since Dec. 2.

The men’s team led the charge for the Irish, turning in first place finishes in the 400-meter, 600-meter and 4×400-meter relay. Sophomore sprinter Patrick Feeny took first place in the 400-meter, narrowly edging out junior sprinter Brendan Dougherty. Freshman sprinter Chris Geisting placed first in the 600-meter, while the team of senior sprinter Mitch Lorenz, Feeny, Dougherty and Geisting won the 4×400-meter relay.

In a day filled with strong performances, Geisting’s showing in the 600-meter stood out. Competing in the 600-meter event for the first time in his career, Geisting finished the race in a time of 1:19.12, tying the meet’s record for the event.

“This meet will be fantastic for [Geisting’s] confidence,” Irish coach Joe Piane said. “He’s been running very well, as he also has the best time in the Big East in the 400-meter, and I anticipate him having a terrific year.”

On the women’s side, the Irish dominated the pentathlon, with Notre Dame runners taking the top four spots in the event. Senior Maddie Buttinger placed first in the race, followed by freshman Carly Loeffel in second, freshman Fiona Paladino in third and sophomore Meghan Moore in fourth. Buttinger racked up a total of 3874 points in the multi-event competition.

The women’s team also had top three finishers in several other events. Irish sprinters in particular enjoyed success, as sophomore Michelle Brown placed third in the 400-meter, senior Natalie Geiger placed third in the 600-meter and the 4×400-meter relay team of Brown, Geiger and freshmen Amber Lalla and Kalia Barber placed second. Barber, who competed in three different events, also turned in a second place finish in the long jump.

Overall, Piane said he views the meet as a good start to what he hopes will be a solid 2012 for the team.

“It was really the first meet outside of what we did in December, so it was a good opportunity to get 40 or 45 people started,” Piane said. “We’re not exactly where we need to be yet, but it was a good start.”

Piane did address his squad’s need for consistency as the season moves forward.

“I would say that we need to work on our consistency,” Piane said. “We can have good performances, but if we’re not consistent across the board, we won’t get anywhere.”

The Irish will stay in South Bend this weekend to host the Notre Dame Invitational, a meet that will include Big East opponents South Florida and DePaul as well as Michigan State.

“This weekend, we look forward to getting more people qualified for the Big East and improving our rankings in the Big East,” Piane said. “It should be a very good meet against some tough teams.”

The squad will be back in action at the Notre Dame Invitational at the Loftus Center on Saturday.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu