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Track and Field

Outdoor season begins with Texas Relays, Bobcat Invitational

| Thursday, March 26, 2015

As the weather transitions from wintry to warm, the Irish return to the track, kicking off their outdoor season with the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas, and the Bobcat Invitational at Texas State in San Marcos, Texas, this week.

The Texas Relays began Wednesday with the women’s heptathlon and men’s decathlon. Senior Carly Loeffel and junior Brent Swanberg competed for the Irish in the events.

Swanberg finished the day in 19th out of 22 competitors after five events, and Loeffel is eighth of 19 after four events. Both will conclude their final events today.

Loeffel, who deferred the indoor season so she could have a full indoor and outdoor season next year in her fifth year, is making her return to the track this weekend.

“Carly has been training the whole fall and winter; she’s been ready to go,” Irish head coach Alan Turner said. “We think she’ll be a national qualifier in 2015 for us.”

Also making a return to the track this weekend after breaking her foot at the 2014 outdoor championships is senior Kaila Barber. Barber will waste no time getting acclimated, running individually in the 400-meter hurdles while also listed in as many as three relay events.

Like the Razorback Invitational during the indoor season, the Texas Relays will host some of the nation’s top programs — Texas A&M and Florida are ranked first and second respectively in both the men’s and women’s rankings, while No. 5/3 Texas, No. 10/13 Texas Tech and No. 13/10 Baylor round out the quintet of top-15 teams on both sides.

“It’s going to be a very good test for us,” Turner said. “It isn’t anything new for our guys now — they’ve faced these top teams before, and I think we’ll have a pretty good showing.”

While the focus is on sprints and team events at the Texas Relays, field events will feature a few other athletes, including senior thrower Dominick Padovano, whose specialty, the discus, is only an outdoor event.

Top Irish competitors in other field events will be compete about half an hour away at the Bobcat Invitational. Notre Dame will send 18 athletes to San Marcos.

As the Irish get the outdoor season underway, Turner said he has high hopes for both the men’s and women’s teams.

“I think our women’s team is going to be even stronger [with the return of Loeffel and Barber],” he said. “They’re both experienced and focused on what they’re doing, so they just make our team so much better for when we get to ACC outdoors and regional meets.

“The men’s team ended up being banged up this year, and we didn’t have the indoor season we wanted to. We rested them up, they healed up, and we’ll be a much stronger team”

Some returners to the men’s side include junior Timothy Ball in the 5,000-meter run, junior Aaron Dunn in the 400-meter hurdles and sophomore Jacob Dumford in the 800- and 1,500-meter runs. After enduring multiple injuries that have sidelined him thus far in his collegiate career, sophomore Andrew Helmin will make his first appearance in the 110-meter hurdles later this season. Turner said the addition of these athletes should dramatically improve Irish team scores in the outdoor season.

“We’re ready to get outside and compete,” Turner said. “Since indoor season, with the sprints group, we’ve only been outside one day. Getting out there in some 70-degree weather will serve us very well.”

The Texas Relays, which began yesterday, will continue through Saturday in Austin. The Bobcat Invitational begins Thursday in San Marcos and will also end Saturday.

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