Track and Field
Irish open indoor season with fresh faces
Manuel De Jesus | Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Notre Dame will kick off its indoor season tomorrow as it hosts Marquette, DePaul, Bethel, Detroit-Mercy, Loyola-Chicago and Northern Illinois in the 10th annual Blue and Gold Invitational.
Irish coach Matt Sparks said that the Blue and Gold Invitational is primarily a time for the newer Irish competitors to get a feel for what it is like to participate in collegiate meets.
“The track and field team has been practicing since early September,” Sparks said. “The Blue and Gold meet is an opportunity for those athletes to see the progress they have made since the track season ended last spring. It will also be an opportunity for the freshmen to see where they stand for the first time against collegiate competition. Also, with a new coaching staff, it will give several of the coaches a first look at how individuals compete.”
In particular, Irish coach Pristina Jones joined the staff to assist in the development of sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers. For the past three years, Jones was the head coach for Jackson State’s women’s track and field and cross country squad. Last season, Jones led the Jackson State cross country team to third place in the SWAC, which was the program’s best spot since 2009. Sparks said he believes that her experience will make an immediate impact on Notre Dame’s program.
“Pristina Jones has head coaching experience [at] Jackson State University, and that leadership will benefit the entire program,” Sparks said. “She will especially contribute to our sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers. With our head coach, Alan Turner, working with the sprinters and jumpers but also overseeing the entire program, she will be another set of eyes on that group as Coach Turner has a watchful eye on the entire track and field program.”
While Notre Dame is welcoming several new athletes to the program, it is also returning a few key contributors. Junior distance runner Molly Seidel just finished up her cross country season with All-American honors. Sparks said that Seidel will be relied on to push the team to a successful season.
“Molly’s confidence is high right now,” Sparks said. “We have need to keep her fitness progressing and most importantly with her is to keep her healthy and injury-free. If we can do those things, she will have a productive track season.”
Last season, the men’s team finished 17th in the NCAA indoor national championships and the women’s squad finished in 29th place. Four Irish individuals earned All-American status, including returning senior hurdler Jade Barber for the women, and senior sprinter Chris Giesting for men. Both men’s and women’s distance medley relay squads grabbed top-five finishes, but each team will return only one relay member.
Notre Dame will begin the Blue and Gold Invitational tomorrow, with the field events beginning at 5 p.m., and the running events following at 6 p.m., in Loftus Sports Center.