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ND Women’s Track and Field: Runners face first big test at ND Invitational

Alex Barker and Andy Ziccarelli | Friday, January 25, 2008

For the first time this season, the Irish will face legitimate Big East competition when they suit up for the Notre Dame Invitational today at the Loftus Sports Center.

The Irish will host conference foe Marquette and Big Ten opponent Michigan State.

“This weekend’s competition will be a major step up from previous meets,” Irish coach Tim Connelly said. “It will be a big step up in competition and a difficult challenge for us.”

The timing of the Invitational could not be better for the Irish, who will not be battling health issues for the first time this season.

“Coming off a lot of injuries and illnesses this fall, we now have almost everyone back and training consistently,” Connelly said.

Sophomore Lindsey Ferguson and senior Julie Opet will run the mile after being held out of last week’s meet. The Irish grabbed three of the top four spots, but couldn’t take the top spot in the duo’s absence.

Connelly said his team can use the meet to improve their personal best times before the Big East meet.

“We still have a very long way to go to be close to our full potential. The big focus for us will be to continue to improve and continue to compete hard,” Connelly said. “If we compete well against better competition, our times will continue to drop and we will start to work our way into a position where scoring well at the conference meet becomes realistic. We need to take a step in that direction.”

Irish athletes will use this meet as another opportunity to qualify for the Big East championships in February. So far this season, the Irish women have set 30 qualifying marks for the conference event.