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Irish prepare for Championships

Joe Meixell | Friday, February 17, 2006

Notre Dame will put its strong record to the test this weekend at the 2006 Big East Indoor Championships in Akron, Ohio.

The top athletes from the conference will perform at their most competitive meet before the NCAA Championships in March. The Irish men’s and women’s teams are looking to shine this Saturday and Sunday.

“I think we can do well and hopefully improve on what we’ve done,” junior sprinter Maryann Erigha said. “Our conference gets more and more competitive each year, and the high level of the athletes who compete there makes this event something to really look forward to.”

Erigha is off to a strong start with several wins during this season’s campaign – two alone coming at last weekend’s Windsor Challenge at Ontario, Canada. She will look to improve upon her best times in the 60-meter (7.42), and 200-meter (23.74) sprints.

“We have a lot of good competitors and our freshmen … have been really impressive this year as well,” Erigha said. “We’re looking to perform well in all our events and do our best to win it this weekend.”

Freshmen jumper Mary Saxer and multi-event specialist Alyissa Hasan have put together solid starts to their careers at Notre Dame. Hasan set a school record for the pentathlon – 3,665 points at the Notre Dame Invitational on Jan. 27 – and Saxer cleared a height of 4.05 meters, setting a new school record in the pole vault. The two are looking to make strong showings and build upon already solid performances this year.

“I just have to keep going up in my heights, qualify for [the NCAA Championships] and keep getting better,” Saxer said. “We’re pretty hopeful about doing well and everyone just wants to do their best and win it.”

Other athletes, such as senior All-American distance runner Stephanie Madia, are set to take their performances to the next level.

Madia finished fourth at the Meyo Invitational in the 3,000-meter run and qualified for the Big East meet with a time of 9:27.47, but she wants to build upon this finish. Madia will compete in the 5,000 and 3,000 meter runs. And though she also qualified for the mile, she has decided to cut this event from her list.

“I’m not really thrilled with how I did at Meyo, and I have sort of a ways to go from my expectations,” Madia said. “Right now, though, it’s just a matter of getting into the race and getting it done, and I’m definitely ready for it.”

Irish junior All-American Kurt Benninger, who earlier this year at the Notre Dame Invitational became the first Irish runner to clock a sub-four-minute mile (3:57.40) twice in his career, also will compete for the Irish this weekend.