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ND Track and Field: Notre Dame qualifies 60 athletes for Big East

Joseph Monardo | Sunday, December 4, 2011

It began with the bang of a gun and, when it was over, Notre Dame had begun its 2011-2012 season with a bang of its own.

The Irish qualified 60 athletes for February’s Big East championships at Friday’s season opening meet, the Blue and Gold Invitational at the Loftus Sports Center. The invitational brought competitors from DePaul, Marquette, Bethel College, Butler and Detroit to South Bend.

In a day filled with victories for the Irish, freshman Kaila Barber captured first place in the 60-meter hurdles, the 400-meter dash and the long jump and was part of Notre Dame’s winning 4×400-meter relay team.

Although she was competing in her first ever college meet, Barber’s impressive debut came as no surprise to Irish coach Joe Piane.

“She is going to be a leader in terms of point scoring, that is for sure,” Piane said.

For Barber, though, her success came despite first-race jitters.

“I didn’t think I would be able to hurdle and long jump as well as I did,” Barber said. “It all came together at the right time. I was super nervous. For long jump I was okay, but for hurdles and the [400-meter] I was freaking out before the race.”

Irish sophomore sprinter Aijah Urssery also captured multiple wins on the women’s side by winning the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes.

On the men’s side, freshman Christopher Giesting took the top spot in Notre Dame’s one-two-three finish in the 400-meter dash, in front of sophomore Patrick Feeney and junior Brendan Dougherty. Led by first-place finisher junior Jeff Macmillan, the Irish also swept the podium and took seven of the top eight positions in the 5,000-meter run.

Overall, Notre Dame took first place in 20 of the day’s 33 events ¬¬⎯ 11 on the women’s side and nine on the men’s side. By qualifying 25 female athletes and 35 male athletes for the Big East championships, the Irish enjoyed a promising start to their season, Piane said.

“Normally, we look to try to get 40 to 45 [qualifiers], and we ended up with 60,” Piane said. “So that’s a really good performance, a great start. It really is.

“Just to put in into perspective … Both Marquette and DePaul combined had 17 [qualifiers]. We are in pretty good shape already. There are other people that have qualified in the past that didn’t make it [on Friday], so we are going to get more qualifiers, there is no doubt.”

The Irish achieved high finishes across the board on Friday, due in part to their dedication during practice, Barber said.

“I think we were successful because of all the hard work we put in before,” she said. “Practices are not easy at all, and everybody works hard at practice and does what they are supposed to do, and that’s why it worked out.”

The next event on Notre Dame’s schedule is the Grand Valley State University Holiday Open in Allendale, Mich., on Dec. 16 and 17, an event in which only a small number of Irish athletes will participate. After opening their season with a strong showing, the Irish face a long layoff before returning to action.

“A vast majority of the team will not compete now until January,” Piane said. “This really gives everyone an idea of where they are at in terms of conditioning, whether it be what kind of shape they are in for running a distance race, or are they ready to do [throws], or jump, or sprints or hurdle well. And I think we found a lot out this past Friday.”


Contact Joseph Monardo at [email protected]