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Track and Field: Irish travel to NY for Big East Indoors

Joseph Monardo | Thursday, February 16, 2012

As the indoor portion of the 2012 schedule nears its conclusion, the Irish will head to New York for the Big East Indoor Championships.

One of the most anticipated meets on Notre Dame’s schedule, competing in the conference indoor championships has been the goal for Irish athletes during the season’s first two months. The importance of qualifying for and performing well at the meet cannot be overstated, Irish coach Joe Piane said.

“How important is breathing? Does that sum it up quickly? Everybody goes into the Big East wanting to win and we are no different, no different at all,” Piane said. “The two biggest meets on our schedule, both indoor and out, are the Big East meet and the NCAAs.”

The field, which will include the top athletes in the Big East, promises to provide strong competition across the board.

“The Big East historically has been outstanding in the middle distance to distance area, but that’s not to say that the sprints are bad and the jumps and field events are bad,” Piane said. “It’s a very, very, very competitive conference.”

The men’s side enters the meet having placed in the top two in four consecutive Big East Indoor championships, including a first-place finish in 2010. This year, the Notre Dame men and women both hope to revisit the top spot on the podium.

“[To win] is great, it really is,” Piane said. “That’s why you have a team, to go out and win. We have a very good, solid team … it doesn’t matter if it’s the men or the women, we are pretty solid.”

On the men’s side, several athletes will attempt to defend Big East titles in their respective events. Senior pole-vaulter Kevin Schipper hopes to earn the gold for the third straight year, and junior middle-distance runner Jeremy Rae looks to defend his title in the mile and lead the 4×800-meter relay to victory for the second straight year. Sophomore sprinter Patrick Feeney, who won the 400-meter race last year in his first conference meet, will have to defend the title from Irish freshman sprinter Chris Giesting, among others.

For the women, junior middle-distance runner Rebecca Tracy enters the meet having won last year’s mile run. The Irish expect contributions from a variety of other sources as well, Piane said.

“We have [senior pentathlete] Maddie Buttinger, who is one of the best multi-eventers not only in the conference but in the country, she is very good,” Piane said. “We have some terrific sprinters — [freshman sprinter] Kaila Barber has done a great job, [sophomore sprinter] Michelle Brown is a terrific 400-meter lady and we have some very good distance ladies.”

Although Notre Dame’s primary focus is winning the conference meet, athletes are also competing for the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships in March. With only one meet between the Big East and NCAA Indoor Championships, the end of the indoor season is right around the corner.

“There is a lot to come for the track season in total, but for the indoor season, we really just have two meets [left],” Piane said. “The indoor season goes very quickly.”

The Irish begin their final indoor Big East competition Saturday, with action concluding Sunday.