Track and Field
Notre Dame turns to Alan Turner
Marek Mazurek | Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The Irish made Alan Turner’s first Notre Dame Invitational as head coach a memorable one this weekend, winning four events and performing well in the middle distances.
The meet also marked a milestone in Notre Dame’s transition of head coaches. For the last forty years, Joe Piane helmed the Irish, but after his retirement this summer, the team turned to Turner, who coached 18 All-American Irish sprinters and jumpers as an associate head coach and assistant coach. As a track athlete at Indiana, Turner was a three-time All-American, won the long jump indoor national title in 1991 and led the Hoosiers to five straight Big Ten titles.
Turner said he is indebted to Piane for his mentorship and the program’s foundation of success.
“I’ve learned a lot from Joe [Piane],” Turner said. “Probably the main thing I’ve learned from him are the subtleties of a coach … knowing when to push an athlete very hard and when to back off. Many times in this sport, we’re on a high-wire act with how hard we push somebody.”
Piane also left Turner with a successful, winning culture, Turner said. Because of this, Turner said he doesn’t think he needs to change the identity of the team.
“I definitely want to put my imprint on the program,” Turner said. “But we have a great identity, and people know that when you run against the Irish, you have to bring it. I want the program to be top three in the ACC and top 20 in all our sports — that’s cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.”
In addition to the coaching change, Notre Dame is still adjusting to a shift to the ACC, Turner said.
“The Big East only had about three or four really competitive teams, whereas in the ACC, there’s a lot more depth,” Turner said. “It’s a lot harder to get people in the finals. Trying to hang with Florida State is a formidable task [because] they’ve been a dominant team not only in the ACC, but also nationwide.”
The new conference will require Turner to change his recruiting habits, he said, due to the different events run in the ACC.
“There [were] a lot of mid-distance events and relays [in the Big East] where we needed more 800-meter runners and more mile runners,” Turner said. “That’s not necessarily the case in the ACC. We can’t skew the team with distance runners, because in the ACC there’s no 500-meters [and] there’s no 1,000-meter.”
Despite these challenges, Turner said he is cautiously optimistic about the Irish’s chances this year.
“Our women this year should do pretty well in the ACC,” Turner said. “Our men’s team — we’re going to have to really show up that day if we want to crack the top three. We have some work to do. We’ve been up and down, but I want to get it where we’re consistently a top-20 program. We’re going to get there. It’ll take some years, but we’re definitely going to get there.”
Notre Dame will split into two squads for its next meet Jan. 30, traveling to the Indiana Relays in Bloomington, Indiana, and the Razorback Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.