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Track and Field: Irish host invitational meet

Jason Galvan | Friday, March 3, 2006

The Irish are set to compete this weekend at the Alex Wilson Invitational at the Loftus Sports Center today at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m.

The Invitational is the last opportunity for athletes to qualify for nationals and – with this in mind – those close to making the cut are looking to take their performance up a notch.

The Notre Dame men and women are coming off an outstanding performance at the Big East Championships, where the men earned an unprecedented 11th straight finish among the top three and the women earned the first place trophy.

Now, the athletes from both squads are looking forward to earning spots to compete in the NCAA championships March 10 and 11 in Fayetteville, Ark.

“I just need to focus … see if I can up my heights and try to make it to nationals,” Irish freshman pole vaulter Mary Saxer said. “If not, it’s not the end of the world, but it would be great if I did.”

Surprisingly, Saxer may not make the cut despite an outstanding season which saw her take second place at the Big East meet and break a school record by clearing a height of 4.05 meters at the Notre Dame Invitational in January. For her to make the NCAA meet, Saxer must take her performance a step further and break the school record she set a little over a month ago.

Others looking to tune up before the national competition include junior All-American Kurt Benninger. Benninger was unable to compete at the Big East meet two weeks ago after suffering through a nagging Achilles tendon injury that has hampered him all season. However, Benninger insists he is feeling fine and ready to compete this weekend.

“I’m really excited to go out there and race again,” Benninger said. “I want to see where I’m at … take some of the rust off and get ready for [the] NCAAs, which is the big goal.”

Benninger has only been able to compete at two meets this indoor season. However, he made the most of his chances. At the Notre Dame Invitational, he ran his second sub-four minute mile and placed first at the meet.

The junior will not be competing in the mile this weekend. He will instead run as part of Notre Dame’s distance medley relay team.

“We’re pretty confident we can qualify in this event and we’re hoping to go out and accomplish something,” Benninger said.

Junior Thomas Chamney, who will compete in the meet’s signature Alex Wilson 800 meter run, is coming off an impressive performance at the Big East meet. Thomas took home first place in the event with a time of 1:48.62 – provisionally qualifying him for the NCAA meet.