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Track and Field

Irish travel to Des Moines for Drake Relays

| Thursday, April 23, 2015

With the ACC and NCAA championship meets just three weeks away, 17 top Irish athletes will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the 106th Drake Relays, one of the largest and most competitive meets of the outdoor season.

Junior sprinter Margaret Bamgbose competes in a relay during the Notre Dame Invitational at Loftus Sports Center on Jan. 24.Michael Yu | The Observer

Junior sprinter Margaret Bamgbose competes in a relay during the Notre Dame Invitational at Loftus Sports Center on Jan. 24.

The Drake Relays will feature athletes from about 200 schools and include events with several professional athletes. Many festivities surround the event, which typically boasts huge crowds and a large, competitive field.

Notre Dame will send six relay squads for some of the signature events of the meet: the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter and 4×200-meter relays, the women’s 4×100-meter relay and the women’s sprint medley relay.

“I’m hoping to improve on our relay teams’ times at the Relays,” Irish head coach Alan Turner said. “Both the men and women have put up some very good times, and we’re hoping to improve on those.”

In the 4×400-meter races, Turner said he expects consistent standouts like senior Chris Giesting and junior Margaret Bamgbose to lead the way with strong splits. He also said senior Amber Lalla, who ran a personal-best 53.84 seconds in the individual 400 meters at the Georgia Tech Invitational last weekend, could be the key to victory if she can notch a sub-53 second split.

Several athletes will compete in individual events as well, including senior Jade Barber, who looks to defend her Drake Relays title in the 100-meter hurdles.

Barber’s sister, senior Kaila, will compete in the 400-meter hurdles alongside fellow senior Michelle Rotondo.

For field events, the Irish will send senior Dominick Padovano for the hammer throw and the discus, as well as freshman Greg Bombara for the javelin.

“This will be Greg’s first really big meet on a big stage,” Turner said. “We’re hoping he can get another personal record.”

On the women’s side, senior Emily Morris will compete in the discus after winning the event at the Georgia Tech Invitational with a 15.15-meter throw. Turner said he hopes she will get even closer to 16.03 meters, her personal best and school-record mark set during the indoor season.

“The competition is pretty stiff at the Drake Relays,” Turner said. “At the Drake Relays, if you’re in the top three [in your event], you’re probably someone that’s national-caliber level, and you’ll probably qualify for the outdoor nationals. And I’m hoping all of our relays can finish in the top three.”

Following the advice of associate head coach Matt Sparks, the Irish distance crew will not be running this weekend after competing at the Virginia Challenge last weekend, Turner said. For the sprinters and field athletes, however, Turner said this event will be a great stage to prepare for the ACC and national championships.

“This will be basically the largest meet in terms of crowds until the NCAA championships,” Turner said. “It’s a good test for them to get used to great competition, a great crowd and a great atmosphere for them to run fast.”

Though the five-day Drake Relays began Wednesday with other events, the Irish will compete in the meet’s major collegiate events beginning on Friday and continuing through Saturday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.

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