The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND Track & Field: Squad begins outdoor season on the road

Megan Finneran | Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Irish will leave the confines of the indoor Loftus Sports Center and embrace the outdoor track season this weekend, traveling to Alabama, Arizona and Stanford for various events.

Distance runners with a chance to qualify for the NCAA regionals in May will compete in the Stanford Invitational Friday and Saturday.

“In order to qualify we need to run a time that places us in the top-48 in the region, and getting that out of the way this weekend would be helpful,” sophomore middle-distance runner Jeremy Rae said.

Sprinters and field event athletes with the same qualifying hopes will meanwhile head to Arizona for the Arizona State Invitational Friday and Saturday.

The indoor season concluded with a second-place finish for the men and an eighth-place finish for the women. With this first outdoor meet, both teams hope to jumpstart an improved season. The men’s distance medley of junior Johnathan Shawel, freshman Patrick Feeney, graduate student Jack Howard and Rae additionally earned All-American honors at the NCAA indoor national championships with a fourth-place finish in the event.

For the men, second place was not quite good enough, Rae said.

“As a team we’d like to bounce back from a disappointing second place finish at Big East this past February,” Rae said. “I’d like to take the experience I gained from running at the indoor NCAA championships and be an All-American at the outdoor NCAA meet.”

Transitioning from indoor to outdoor is not as straightforward a task as it may seem.

“The main transition is the track size. Indoor tracks are usually 200-320 meters compared to outdoor tracks, which are 400 meters,” sprinter Feeney said. “The outdoor tracks are easier to run on because in events like the 400-meter you stay in your lane all the way, which is a lot easier.”

Additionally, wind, fluctuating temperatures and rain add unknown but often influential elements to competition. The outdoor season also includes more traveling, forcing each athlete to stay on top of his or her class workload.

This weekend marks the beginning of a season that is sure to be full of improvement for both men and women.

“Everyone has been working really hard at practice, and we have the opportunity this weekend to run some personal bests at a very competitive meet,” junior distance runner Rachel Velarde said. “We hope to get some Big East as well as regional qualifying times.”

Both the Arizona State and Stanford Invitational kick off Friday with races throughout the day both Friday and Saturday.