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Track and Field

Irish set to return to Penn Relays for first time in recent memory

| Thursday, April 27, 2017

After setting multiple school and personal records last weekend at the Virginia Challenge and the Michael Johnson Invitational, the Irish look to continue their streak of successful outings as they compete at the prestigious Penn Relays this weekend.

The largest and oldest track meet in the country, the Penn Relays are held in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania and provide the level of competitive atmosphere that should serve the Irish well two weeks before the ACC outdoor championships. Irish head coach Alan Turner noted this weekend is a special opportunity for the Irish to compete on a big stage and shared some insight into Notre Dame’s history at the Penn Relays.

Irish junior Jessica Harris races in the distance medley relay during the ACC indoor championship on Feb. Feb. 23 at Loftus Sports Center.Ann Curtis | The Observer

Irish junior Jessica Harris races in the distance medley relay during the ACC indoor championship on Feb. 23 at Loftus Sports Center.

“This weekend is the last one before the ACCs, so it’s going to be important for us to compete well,” Turner said. “This is a great opportunity to run some real fast relays in front of a huge crowd. We haven’t been to the Penn Relays since the ’90s, and we actually haven’t won a relay since the ’40s, but I’m excited to see what we can do.”

While Notre Dame has historically come up empty at the Penn Relays, Turner said he is particularly excited for one event this weekend — an event which he feels the Irish have a good shot at breaking their winless streak in Philadelphia.

“I think our women’s distance medley-relay team has the best shot at winning our first Penn relay,” Turner said. “[Graduate student Danielle] Aragon couldn’t compete in our relays indoors because of eligibility restrictions, but she’s running really well right now and will run the 1200-meter leg. [Junior] Jessica Harris is going to run the mile, [junior] Payton Miller will run the [400-meter leg] and [sophomore] Kelly Hart will handle the [800-meter] leg. It’s going to be a really good competition between us, Villanova, Stanford and Indiana to see who can come out on top — but those four are our best bet to win.”

Turner’s confidence in the women’s distance medley relay is not unfounded, as the Irish won the event at the ACC indoor championships earlier this year. Aragon’s presence this time around provides a significant upgrade to the squad, as the graduate student finished first in the women’s 1,500-meter race with a time of 4:15.65 last weekend at the Virginia Challenge, while also running her fastest 800-meter race since the 2013 Stanford Invitational with a time of 2:07.27.

Aside from the women’s distance medley relay, Turner said he expects the other Irish relays to perform well, as the entire team gears up for the ACC championships.

“I think our women’s [400-meter] hurdlers relay should finish as one of the top-three teams, and on the men’s side, I’m really excited to see the 4×800-meter relay and 4×1600-meter relays,” Turner said. “We’ve got a lot of guys running really good, consistent times.”

While the main action will be at the Penn Relays, Notre Dame will also have athletes competing at the Gina Relays held at Hillsdale College in Michigan, where many younger, more inexperienced runners will get the chance to compete this weekend.

The Penn Relays begin at 1 p.m. Thursday at Ben Franklin Field and will go through Saturday, while the Gina Relays will begin Friday at noon at Ken Herrick Track and will also last through Saturday.

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