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ND Track: NCAA, Big East bids up for grabs

Michael Blasco | Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Irish are looking to nab a few more NCAA and Big East tournament qualifications this weekend at a pair of prestigious events. Notre Dame will compete at the 51st Mt. Saint Antonio College Relays from today through Saturday in Walnut, Calif., while other Irish athletes will stay closer to home at the Dave Rankin Track and Field Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind.

Several strong showings have left Notre Dame in a fine position heading into next week’s Big East championships, but head coach Joe Piane said he is hoping that a few more athletes will qualify at this weekend’s events.

“We’re really trying to get some more kids qualified for the Big East [tournament] and NCAA [Tournament]”, Piane said. “That’s our goal. The kids who are running this weekend are doing so for that opportunity.”

After a string of tournaments throughout the country, this weekend will be a breather for those athletes that have earned qualifications. This weekend marks the last chance for the Irish to pick up any more invitations for the Big East championships.

“The kids that aren’t running are resting up after a brutal stretch of meets,” Piane said. “We’re trying to get as many people qualified as possible, especially since a few people have been really close, [senior] Dan Clark, example. The [Mt. Saint Antonio College Relays] is a great meet, with nearly 8,000 competitors, to get some people qualified.”

Clark has missed the cut narrowly several times this season. He earned invitations to both the Big East and NCAA championships in his junior year.

The Mt. SAC Relays kick off this evening at 5:30 p.m. One of the oldest and largest events in the country, the Mt. SAC Relays features thousands of athletes competing at the high school, collegiate and professional level in both track and field events.

Other members of the Irish teams will head to Purdue’s Dave Rankin Invitational for competition Friday and Saturday. After the Big East championships next week, the team will head to the Georgia Tech Invitational as a final tune-up before the NCAA Championships at the end of May.