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Irish look to prepare for Big East

Mike Gilloon | Friday, April 23, 2004

It’s crunch time.

With the Big East Championships only one week away, the Irish are hoping to work out the kinks as they compete in this weekend’s Big Ten Preview Invitational and Drake Relays.

The group headed for the Big Ten Preview, held at Purdue, is the larger of the two as only a handful of teammates are going to Drake.

“At Purdue we want to get some more people qualified for the Big Easts,” Irish assistant coach Tim Connelly said. “There are also some kids who need a tune-up race but there are also a lot who will not be racing this weekend.”

With finals also looming on the horizon, the team must balance books while trying to succeed on the track.

“Each kid has managed to get their schoolwork done all year,” he said. “I think this week they’re also going to find a way to do that.”

Among those headed to Des Moines, Iowa for the 94th annual Drake Relays will be Napoleon Suarez and Mark Barber who will compete in the 400-meter hurdles. Two weeks ago at the Missouri Invite, they finished first and second respectively in the 400-meter hurdles. Both runners have already qualified for the Big East and would like to build on the success they have had this year.

The other Irish competitors at Drake will be Katie Duman in the javelin, Kerry Meagher in the 1,500-meters and the men’s 6,400 meter relay team.

The competition at Purdue will be similar to last week’s Indy Relays in that it will be made up of mostly teams from the Midwest. The meet is designed to be a tune-up for next week’s Big Ten Championships yet only three teams – Illinois, Indiana and Purdue – will be representing the conference. The other squads in the field include Ball State, Indiana State, DePaul, Loyola-Chicago and Mar-quette.

Notre Dame pole vaulter Dave Viken has already qualified for the Big East meet but wants to use this weekend as a warm up for the conference championships.

“This is a critical point in the season for our team,” Viken said. “I want to do the best I can at Purdue so I am in a good position to help out down the stretch.”

Viken is among a solid group of Irish vaulters who will be going to the meet including Stephanie Best, Laura Huarte, Jill Van Weelden and Dee Dee Bryant. The other men’s pole vaulter, Justin Oppel, will not participate this weekend as he is resting a sore back before next week’s meet.