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Track and Field: Indiana Relays to add prep time for Big East

Joseph Monardo | Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coming off an impressive performance in the Notre Dame Invitational, the Irish travel to Bloomington, Ind., for the Indiana Relays this weekend.

Now several weeks into its schedule, Notre Dame hopes to continue to add momentum leading up to the first Big East championships of the season. Notre Dame coach Joe Piane said the Indiana Relays represent a great opportunity for the Irish to participate in a competitive environment as the meet will include talented representatives from a number of different schools.

“It’s a good quality field all the way around which is really important,” Piane said. “You’ve got to have good competition and this appears to be really good competition.”

In the meet, Piane will also have the chance to see some of his athletes compete in new and unfamiliar events.

“We’ll find out where some people are in different events,” he said. “Everybody has raced, but we are going to put some people in different events. [Sophomore sprinter] Patrick Feeney and [freshman sprinter] Chris Giesting are going to be running the 200[-meter dash], which they haven’t done as much this year, and Chris certainly hasn’t.”

Giesting provided the highlight in last weekend’s home event for the Irish by breaking a 29-year-old school record in the 500-meter run his first time competing in the event. The talented freshman is among the group of top performers Piane expects to lead the way for the Irish in their upcoming meet.

“We have some very good individuals in the field events and we have three very good 400-meter men in Brendan Dougherty, Chris Giesting and Pat Feeney,” he said. “On the women’s side we have some pretty good middle distance and distance and we have some very good sprinters. [Freshman sprinter and hurdler] Kaila Barber is running well, and [senior] Maddie Buttinger is one of the better multi-event athletes, certainly in the Big East. So we have some pretty good kids everywhere. We’ve got a good club all the way around, both genders.”

Competing for the Irish for the first time this weekend will be a trio of football players. Freshman running back George Atkinson III, freshman cornerback Josh Atkinson and sophomore cornerback Bennett Jackson joined Piane’s team for practice this week and will be running sprints for Notre Dame this weekend.

The meet at Indiana will give Notre Dame’s stars a chance to shine, but will also provide other Irish athletes with an opportunity to earn a spot in the Big East championships, scheduled for Feb. 18 and 19 in New York City.

“Our goals, always, are to do well at the Big East meets and get to the NCAAs,” Piane said. “We have a lot of kids [who have] qualified for the Big East meet already, and you can’t get to the Big East meet unless you qualify. Then, we hope to get some kids to the NCAA Nationals.”

With his team’s long-term goals in mind, Piane expects to see successful results from his athletes this weekend.

“I think we will do well, I think we will do very well,” he said.

The Indiana Relays begin at 3 p.m. Friday and continue all day Saturday at Indiana University.