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Track and Field: Team heads to Iowa for Relays

Joseph Monardo | Thursday, April 26, 2012

Entering their last competition before the Big East outdoor championships, some Irish athletes will get a jump start on the weekend as they travel to Des Moines, Iowa, for the Drake Relays.

Last weekend the Irish captured eight individual victories at the Polytan Invitational at Indiana University while senior middle distance runner Johnathan Shawel and junior middle distance runner Jeremy Rae turned in impressive performances as the only Irish representatives at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif.

This year’s installment of Drake University’s track and field event is the 103rd running and is the largest ever with 120 events spread over four days. The meet welcomes both high-school and college athletes and will also feature some of the world’s top pole-vaulters in a special event.

Notre Dame will use the Drake Relays primarily as a final tune-up before the conference championship, sophomore sprinter Patrick Feeney said.

“Mostly everyone who is going has qualified,” he said. “[Most of us going to Iowa] are just running relays, mainly, because Big Easts is next week so [the coaches] kind of just wanted us to get fresh for that.”

Feeney will compete in the 4×400-meter relay for the Irish at Drake, alongside junior sprinter Brendan Dougherty, senior middle distance runner Mitchell Lorenz and freshman sprinter Chris Giesting. The Irish foursome hopes to turn in its lowest time of the year against top competition, Feeney said.

“In the [4×400-meter relay], we want to beat the fastest time we have run this year because there are definitely a lot of good teams that are going to be there,” he said. “Arkansas is going to be there, Minnesota, Florida, and they all have teams that have gone 3:05, 3:06, some of them even 3:03. Our best is 3:07, so we will definitely be able to compete with [them].”

Still, Notre Dame’s main focus is on the Big East championships, which begin May 4 in Tampa, Fla. Senior pole-vaulter Kevin Schipper is among the Irish athletes expected to compete for a conference title. Schipper has won four titles during the 2012 outdoor season and is currently ranked third in the Big East with a high mark of 5.4 meters. On the women’s team, junior middle-distance runner Rebecca Tracy enters the Drake Relays after capturing a pair of victories at Indiana last weekend.

As the Irish prepare for the conference event and continue on to the NCAA national outdoor championships in June, the Drake Relays will act as a measuring stick, Feeney said.

“These are probably the fastest people we have run with … so it will definitely push us,” he said. “Hopefully we can stay up there with them, because if we want to go to Nationals those are some of the same teams we are going to be seeing.”

Some Irish athletes not competing in Iowa this weekend will make the trip to Hillsdale, Mich., for the Hillsdale Gina Relays, which begin Friday. Irish competition at the Drake Relays begins today in Des Moines and continues through Saturday.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu