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Track and Field

Notre Dame ready to start season with Blue & Gold Invitational

| Friday, December 2, 2016

Notre Dame begins its season Friday with the Blue & Gold Invitational, looking to capture its first ACC crown under head coach Alan Turner.

One reason Turner believes the Irish have a shot at the conference title in February? Molly Seidel.

Seidel graduated in May and was getting set to compete in the Olympic trials, but a back injury forced her to sit the Olympics out. The graduate student spent time on the west coast before deciding to return to Notre Dame for her final year of eligibility. Turner said Seidel’s return will give the program a huge boost, both on and off the track.

“It wouldn’t matter if we were the best team in the country, or we were the worst team,” Turner said. “When you have somebody who was the indoor national athlete and a cross country champion. She basically won everything she entered last year. She elevates our women’s program, but more so, it’s going to help [sophomore] Anna Rohrer, it’s going to help [sophomore] Annie Heffernan, all our distance runners, [senior] Lexi Pelletier. She’s back, she’s going to push them in training and it also helps with recruiting. I’m ecstatic she’s coming back.”

Seidel’s return cements what is already a strong group of women’s distance runners. Earlier this month, the women’s cross country team placed 11th in the NCAA championships, and sophomore Anna Rohrer earned a third-place individual finish.

“The key is with the top distance runners, they have three seasons: cross country, indoor and outdoor,” Turner said. “So we’re going to rest them here for December and probably all of January, so they probably won’t make their debut until the end of January or the first weekend in February.

“Last year, they were lights out when they ran. Annie was a little banged up at the end of the indoor season and didn’t run outdoor. But obviously, Molly and Anna are going to continue to be two of the top distance runners in the conference — they should be multiple-time All-Americans in indoor. We’re fully loaded when it comes to women’s distance.”

Another factor the Irish have going for them is that they host the ACC indoor championships this spring. Turner said home track advantage could be what pushes Notre Dame over the edge to take the top spot in the ACC.

“If you ask a lot of old-school track coaches, they’ll tell you if you’re hosting the conference championships … your home court, you can probably add an extra 10 points to your team’s score,” Turner said. “Our track is different, no other track in the country is 220-meters. Our athletes know how to run on it, they know exactly every meter of the track, they’ll have the home crowd cheering them on and they’ll get a good sleep in their own beds. … I don’t want to jinx myself, [but] our women’s team should be in a good position to finally win our first ACC title.”

For the men’s squad, Turner said there a few athletes to watch as the season progresses: senior pole vaulter Nathan Richartz, sophomore high-jumper Matthew Birzer and freshman sprinter and football athlete Troy Pride Jr.

“Nate [Richartz] first-team All-American last year, ACC champion. He had benign tumor in his femur, and he went to get his hamstring looked at and they found this tumor in his femur,” Turner said. “He should retain his ACC-title and place much higher than he did nationally. … Another guy who did a great job his freshman year for us [is] Matt Berzer in the high jump.

“We’re going to get a boost from the football team this year. Troy Pride, he’s from Greer, South Carolina, he won the 100-, 200- and 400-meters for the South Carolina championships. … He won’t compete until January. … Once we get him up to speed, he’s really going to contribute as well.”

The Irish start their season Friday at the Blue & Gold Invitational at Loftus Sports Complex.

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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