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ND Track and Field: Young runners ready for indoor season opener

Deirdre Krasula | Friday, January 19, 2007

Notre Dame will take to its home track for the first time in the spring season when it hosts the Notre Dame Indoor Opener at the Loftus Sports Complex today.

The meet is a chance for young athletes to try to qualify for the Big East Indoor Championship and to allow both the men and the women’s teams to get back into routine after being away over break.

“There will be good competition for the [young] guys to try to hit [Big East] standards,” junior distance runner Adam Currie said. “And it’s a tester meet to try to see where [we] are at after being away.”

The team comes off a successful showing at the Purdue Invitational, where individual winners were determined, but an overall team score was not kept. The women’s team had two individual winners, senior Cassie Gullickson and sophomore Mary Saxer. Gullickson garnered a victory in the high jump with a 1.63-meter jump. She also met her season-best mark with an 11.46-meter win in the triple jump. Both wins guaranteed her a spot in the Big East Indoor Championship in each event.

Saxer took first in the pole vault with a season-best clearance of 3.8 meters – again qualifying her for the Big East Championship. Freshman Michelle Ripple was not far behind with a personal-best vault of 3.35 meters, just short of a Big East qualifier.

The Irish saw success on the men’s side as well. Freshman pole vaulter Jim Merchun took seventh with a season-best height of 4.45 meters – placing him in the Big East Championship. Sophomore Brian Mahon and freshman Matt Schipper both cleared the 4.3-meter mark but fell short of 4.45-meters, which would have allowed them to grab a spot in the Big East Championship.

Senior Christopher Jacques led the men’s squad with two top-five finishes in the long jump and the high jump. Jacques’ 7.03-meter long jump was second best, trailing behind the 7.08-meter jump of Purdue’s Nolan Petties. Jacques also took fourth in the high jump with a 1.91-meter clearance. Freshman Eric Quick was not far behind Jacques with a season-best 6.62 mark in the long jump – making him the first Irish rookie to gain a place in the Big East field.

Senior Garet Koxlien furthered Notre Dame’s success in the field with a third-place finish in the weight throw with a toss of 16.64 meters.

Both teams have experienced veterans returning to guide the way for the new faces. The men’s team will turn to leaders like Jacques and senior distance runner Kurt Benninger. The women will continue to rely on Gullickson as both teams hope to take the Big East Championship and send a handful of runners to the NCAA Championship.

“Both teams sent a minimum to win the Big East and get as many people as we can to the NCAA championship,” Currie said.