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Track and Field

Irish return home for ND Invite

| Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Notre Dame returns to Loftus Fieldhouse on Saturday for the Notre Dame Invitational after last weekend’s successful road trip to Michigan for the Simmons-Harvey Invitational.

The Irish excelled in Ann Arbor last weekend, claiming 27 top-10 finishes on the women’s side and 24 on the men’s. The 400-meter relays were particularly impressive as both the men (3:17.84) and the women (3:49.11) claimed first place. Both teams, the women led by sophomore Margaret Bamgbose and senior Michelle Brown and the men, by seniors Chris Giesting and Pat Feeney, qualified for the NCAA championships last season, and Irish head coach Joe Piane said their confidence level is rising as this season progresses.

“For the ladies, [confidence] is extremely high, because we have not only a good team of four, but we’re deep to about six ladies,” Piane said. “And on the men’s side we have two great legs in Feeney and Giesting, and then four or five freshmen that could really fit in. So I think both of their confidence is really high.”

The 400-meter relays also placed first in Notre Dame’s first home meet of the season, the Blue and Gold Meet, where the Irish won 26 out of 33 events. The Notre Dame Invitational will be the first time the Irish have hosted a meet since before winter break, and Piane said they are eager to return to their home track.

“I think it helps a great deal,” Piane said. “They understand the place, they know the place. They hopefully get a good night sleep in their own bed. But the best thing is that this track is so fast, and it’s fast because it’s huge. It’s the biggest indoor track in the United States, so that’s got to help.”

Still getting used to the home track will be a talented group of freshmen. Piane said he has been pleased with their performance thus far, particularly middle-distance runners Chris Marco and Jacob Dumford. Piane said that both freshmen and returning runners should only get stronger as the season continues.

“Every year you can improve a great deal,” Piane said. “For some kids it was the first time they competed, for some of them the first in nine months. I saw some kids compete very well. We had a lot of good things happen, we really did.”

With the ACC championships only a month away, the Irish have only a few more meets to prepare, meaning that the freshmen’s growth must continue.

Piane also said he is likely to decrease the amount of experimentation as runners focus on their strongest events. Last weekend, Brown added the 200-meter dash to her arsenal, and finished second. While that was a successful experiment, Piane said that as the events increase in intensity, runners will be more likely to conserve themselves for their best races.

“We’ll probably do some [more experimentation], but the farther along you go, you can’t experiment as much,” Piane said. “For example … we have the Meyo meet [coming up], and I can guarantee you those guys are going to want to run really fast in the individual events.”

Notre Dame will look to defend its home track and continue its strong early start to the season at the Notre Dame Invitational on Saturday.

Contact Casey Karnes at wkarnes2@nd.edu

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