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Irish expect to benefit from division change

Ryan Kiefer | Friday, February 18, 2005

Recent conference realignment in college athletics has drawn the most attention in football and basketball, but don’t tell that to the Notre Dame’s track team.With last year’s decisive conference champion Miami gone to the ACC, last year’s runner-up, the Irish, feel everything is in place for them to capture a Big East title, something they have not done in three seasons. Notre Dame’s quest will not go unchallenged, however, as a strong field is expected this weekend in Syracuse, N.Y. for the conference meet. Villanova enters the meet ranked 14th in the nation by Trackwire.com and Pittsburgh, last year’s third-place team, carries a No. 15 ranking.”Pittsburgh is a solid team,” assistant coach Scott Winsor said. “They are strong in all events, but especially in the 400 on down.”The Irish enter the meet unranked despite being as high as 11th earlier this season. Their fall in the rankings can be attributed to the inactivity of key distance runners Molly Huddle, Lauren King and Kerry Meagher, all recovering from cross country injuries. Huddle, a seven-time All-American, is said to have recovered from her foot injury and is scheduled to run the 5,000, her first race of the year, at the Big East meet. The junior is the defending conference champion and meet record-holder in this event. Notre Dame will look for the distance runners to anchor the team, but will need a strong performance from all areas of the team to be victorious this weekend. Maryann Erigha, who has notched several victories this year and finished eighth in the 60-meter dash last season, will lead the Irish in the sprint events. Tiffany Gunn will pace Notre Dame’s middle-distance group, following a fourth-place performance last season in the 500. In the field events, the Irish expect Stacey Cowan to be a standout performer in the high jump. Cowan had her best jump of the season last year – 5-11 1/2 – at this meet and finished second. Meghan Horn is the best hope for the Irish in the throwing events, as she has already set a personal best this season and finished eighth at the conference meet last season.These individuals are expected to lead the team, but Winsor made it clear that this weekend will have to be a team effort. “We didn’t bring anyone this weekend who we didn’t think could help us. We expect every team member to score points this weekend. We need this because the meet may be decided by one or two points,” Winsor said. With all the pieces in place,, all that’s left to do is race.”This has been a goal of ours since the beginning of the season,” Winsor said. “The opportunity is there and that’s all you can ask for.”