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ND TRACK AND FIELD: Irish host year’s first meet

Joe Meixell | Friday, December 2, 2005

The Notre Dame track and field teams look to begin their season on the right foot at this weekend’s Blue and Gold Invitational. The event, which will feature the Notre Dame team and other athletes from DePaul and Butler, will take place at 5 p.m. this Friday at Loftus Sports Center.

Though this meet has a relatively small number of participants from other schools, each of the teams will look to use this event as a starting point from which to gauge their progress during their off-season training.

“We started this meet years ago as an inter-squad meet, but the last couple of years we’ve invited a couple other schools,” Assistant coach John Millar said. “It gives the athletes who have been training a chance to see where they’re at and even as a motivator.”

With a long season ahead and the next meet over a month away, the team will get the opportunity to put their training to use in a more competitive atmosphere. Many of the distance runners have been able to compete with the cross-country team this fall. For athletes in other events such as sprinting, hurdles and high jump, this event will be the first opportunity to sufficiently put their abilities to the test.

“The sprinters, jumpers and throwers work diligently from the first of September on and they can use this event as a benchmark for their conditioning,” coach Joe Piane said. “It’ll be a good start and a great opportunity for them since they haven’t had the opportunity to do much over the summer.”

In addition to finally putting their skills to the test after these months of off-season training, each of the athletes will also have the opportunity of to qualify for the Big East meet.

“For the sprinters, throwers, runners and all those not in cross country, it’s a great opportunity to see where they are fitness-wise and get the qualifying out of the way,” senior distance runner Stephanie Madia said. “Everyone’s excited and we have a lot of people that are ready to run at Big East Standards.”

The Irish track team has a returning core of talented athletes who qualified for the NCAA championships last year and several others who are expected to make a strong showing this year and who may qualify for the Big East meet this Friday.

“For the men, Ryan Postel, Austin Wechter, Charlie Hilding and Zack Labrecque are people I would expect that should not only make it, but do good for the rest of the season,” Millar said. “I also expect athletes on the women’s team such as Maryann Erigha, Okechi Ogbukiri, Crysta Swayzer and Brienne Davis to qualify and perform at a pretty high level.”

However, veterans and proven stars should not be the only ones contributing this season.

“I’m also always looking for a few surprises and other people to step up,” she said. “Zach Labrecque, moving from the 200 to the 400, is someone who could really do well.”

The Invitational is something that the team can look forward to with some excitement coming out of the off-season. Each of the athletes have been preparing to perform at a high level this season and the first meet will, along with an evaluation of performance, prove to be a fun and exhilarating experience.

“Meets are something they gear towards,” Millar said. The chance to compete is something to look forward to and I think they’re excited about finally getting the opportunity.”