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Track and Field

ND travels to face top-flight field

| Thursday, January 29, 2015

Preparing for what could potentially be a season-defining performance, Notre Dame is set to travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas this weekend, where it will face a daunting field in the Razorback Invitational.

The Irish has faced increasingly stiff competition as its season progressed, and the upcoming Invitational is posed to continue this trend. The meet boasts a field of 14 teams, 10 of which are ranked in the top 25, in either or both of the men’s and women’s polls.

Irish junior Brent Swanberg, center, storms through the 60-meter hurdles during the Blue and Gold Invitational on Dec. 5.Wei Lin | The Observer

Irish junior Brent Swanberg, center, storms through the 60-meter hurdles during the Blue and Gold Invitational on Dec. 5.

“We have to be ready,” Irish coach Alan Turner said. “The preliminaries, so to speak, are over – we’re really getting into the meat of the season, facing a lot of the powerhouse programs this weekend.”

Arkansas, the host of the meet, is currently the No.3 men’s team and the No. 5 women’s team, while No. 2/1 Florida has the strongest overall team, based on rankings. No. 4/3 Texas A&M, No. 10/7 Texas, No. 7/10 Stanford, No. 15/11 Florida State and No. 16/13 Oklahoma State round out an impressive list of programs featured in the invitational whose men’s and women’s teams are both ranked.

Turner said he believes the meet will be a pivotal moment for the Irish.

“One of two things is going to happen,” he said. “We’re either going to step up and use this to rocket ourselves into being a top-20 program, or we’re going to get beat pretty bad and potentially struggle the rest of the season. So this meet right here could definitely be a turning point for our team.”

In addition to housing some of the top track and field athletes in the country, Arkansas’ facility for the invitational will help create favorable conditions for a fast meet. The banked 200-meter track at Arkansas’s Randal Tyson Track Center has a reputation for being one of the fastest indoor tracks in the world, with several collegiate and world records having been set there.

“It’s very conducive to running very fast 200-meter [dash], 400-meter [dash] and 4×400-meter [relay] times,” Turner said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have several school records broken this weekend.”

In particular, Turner said he is looking forward to the performance of senior and two-time All-American sprinter Chris Giesting, who looks to break the school record of 45.92 seconds in the 400-meter race.

In the women’s 400-meter, Turner said junior sprinter Margaret Bamgbose also has the potential to break the Notre Dame record, which currently stands at 52.73 seconds.

The meet features several top long-distance programs, including Stanford, Oklahoma State and Arkansas, which Turner said provides a great opportunity for Notre Dame’s long-distance duo of senior Jake Kildoo and junior Michael Clevenger to make their mark in the 3000-meter race.

“Our top athletes are used to this level of competition, so we’re expecting them to lead the way,” Turner said. “When you put a lot of top athletes on the track at the same time, you’re going to get some incredible times.”

The Irish will compete in the Razorback Invitational this weekend with the first gun going off at 4 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday.

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