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Track & Field: Top athletes travel to Big East finale

Doug Farmer | Friday, February 20, 2009

From the first days of fall practice, the Irish coaches have focused the team on this weekend.

“Where we really want to run is the Big East championships,” coach Jow Piane said from the start. After each meet along the way, he repeatedly said, “This was just one small to getting the team ready for the Big East.”

Those long-awaited Big East Championships have finally arrived. The team departed for New York City on Thursday for the competition this weekend.

A couple of seniors lead each the men’s and women’s squads across the country. For the men, senior Bill Buzaid will compete in the 500-meter dash. Patrick Smyth will race in both the 3,000 and the 5,000, and Dan Clark will do his part in the mile, a notoriously difficult Big East event.

“The mile is a bear. There are two guys seeded under four minutes,” head coach Joe Piane said. “Distance running has always been pretty darn good in the Big East.”

As for the women, the dominating field events duo of seniors Anna Weber and Mary Saxer expect to headline the women’s performances. Weber hopes to place in both the shot put and the weight throw, while Saxer will try to keep her incredible pole vault season rolling.

The deep underclassmen hope to follow the seniors’ examples. In the mile, freshmen Jordan Carlson will join Clark, while joining Buzaid in the middle-distance events are both freshmen Jordan Rincon and junior Balazs Molnar running the 400, and junior Jack Howard will represent Notre Dame in the 800.

Sophomore Justin Schneider finished second in the multi-events as a freshman, and will have a chance to improve on that this weekend, with strong Irish participation throughout the field events supporting him. The Schipper brothers, Matt, a junior, and Kevin, a freshman, have already qualified for the NCAA Championships, and will pole vault this weekend as well. Meanwhile, Eric Quick is jumping in both the triple and long jumps.

All the competitors face strong competition at the Big East championships. The stiffest opposition will come from Connecticut and Louisville, as both are anticipated to fight for the first and second team places in both the men’s and women’s results.

“People don’t understand how good the Big East Conference is in track and field,” Piane said. “Historically, the Big East is terrific in track and field.”

“Year in and year out, track may be the best sport the Big East has. Now, this year basketball may be, but year in and year out, track or cross country is the most competitive sport the conference has.”

That sport will have a chance to live up to its billing this weekend in the Big Apple. Most of the finals are scheduled for Sunday, but the long jump, the weight throw, the pole vault, the 5,000, and the distance medley will conclude Saturday.