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Track and Field: Athletes travel all over U.S.

Chris Hine | Friday, April 21, 2006

In preparation for the upcoming Big East meet in two weeks, the Notre Dame track and field team will send four members this weekend to the Oregon Invitational at the University of Oregon and several sprinters to the Central Collegiate meet in Ypsilanti, Mich.

The University of Oregon is the former home of legendary Olympic sprinter Steve Prefontaine, whose career was cut short due to a fatal car accident. Prefontaine set the American record in the 5,000 meters.

Notre Dame junior runner Kurt Benninger, already an automatic NCAA qualifier in the mile and 3,000 meters, will try to channel the spirit of Prefontaine as he attempts to qualify for the Mideast Regional meet in the 5,000.

Sophomore Austin Wechter will compete in Ypsilanti in the 400-meter hurdles, hoping to improve his time by .15 seconds to qualify for the Mideast Regionals.

“I’ve really done nothing different from the beginning of the year. I’ve just kept working hard and I hope to get it,” he said.

Also competing in the Central Collegiate meet are junior Maryann Erigha and the 4 x 100-relay team of Erigha, sophomore Domenique Manning, junior Okechi Ogbuokiri and sophomore Brienne Davis. Erigha pulled within .02 of a second of Mideast qualifying time in the 200-meters last weekend at the Mount San Antonio relays and will try to top that time this weekend.

The relay team is within .14 seconds of a Mideast qualification.

The majority of runners will attend the meets to stay in top form for the Big East meet in two weeks.

“You basically prepare for one or two meets on the year, but you try to prepare for the Big East like it’s any other meet,” sprint coach John Millar said. “You have to control your anxiety or else it becomes detrimental.”

On the year, Notre Dame has dozens of Big East and 17 Mideast regional qualifications.

Anxiety will surely heighten in the weeks to come, especially for the women’s team, as it has a possibility of executing the triple crown of winning the indoor, outdoor and cross-country portions of the Big East meet. No women’s team has accomplished this feat since Villanova in 1987.