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ND WOMEN’S TRACK: Erigha leads Irish at Williams Invite

Joe Meixell | Monday, March 21, 2005

The Irish enjoyed warm weather and fast times at the Willie Williams Invitational, their first outdoor track meet in Tucson, Ariz. this weekend. Notre Dame sent a limited number of athletes to Arizona, mostly sprinters and hurdlers, but was able to score five top-three finishes and qualify one athlete for the NCAA regional meet. Maryann Erigha was the star of the meet for Notre Dame as she notched the lone victory for the Irish in the 200 meters and also finished fourth in the 100 meters. Her time in the 200 earned her a place in the NCAA regional meet, while her time in the 100 left her just one tenth of a second short of the qualifying mark. Sophomore Okechi Ogbuokiri also ran well, finishing second in the 400 meters and eighth in the 200. Freshman Dominique Manning showed promise in her outdoor debut, finishing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles and running on the fourth place 4-by-100 team, which also featured Erigha, Brienne Davis and Crysta Swayzer.Petra Dankova and Cassie Gullickson highlighted the field events for the Irish. Dankova finished third in the triple jump and long jump competitions, and Gullickson finished second in the high jump.Notre Dame’s goals entering this meet were to get some of its younger athletes experience, affording them as many opportunities as possible to qualify for the NCAA regionals. The Irish showed promise in this area, as the athletes showed their ability to adapt to the warm, dry conditions in the desert. The outdoor portion of the schedule also brings a different NCAA qualification process. Indoors, athletes must hit an automatic qualification mark to be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA field. After that, the NCAA selects a number of athletes from each event among a pool who have earned a lesser, provisional standard. This number varies from year to year and can leave athletes in limbo as to whether they have qualified for the championships. Outdoors, athletes strive for one mark, which earns them a place in the NCAA regional where two athletes from each event advance to the championships. Coach Tim Connelly feels the outdoor process favors his athletes. “It’s so much clearer outdoors. The athletes know exactly what they have to do. We just have to get them to a point where they can achieve these times,” Connelly said last week.The Irish will continue their quest for qualification times next weekend with two meets, one at Baylor University and one at Stanford University.