Track and Field
Irish confident heading into NCAA indoor championships
Peter Baltes | Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Several Notre Dame athletes will soon have an opportunity to compete and showcase a season’s worth of hard work on the national stage. The Irish will be looking to make a big mark at this weekend’s NCAA indoor track and field championships at Texas A&M, marking the conclusion of a largely successful indoor season.
The Irish are coming off of an impressive showing at the ACC championships two weekends ago. Twelve Notre Dame athletes placed in the top 10 in an individual event, as did both the men’s and women’s distance medley relay teams. Irish associate head coach Matt Sparks has seen the Irish grow over the course of the season, and he believes this will factor significantly into the team’s performance this weekend.
“Throughout the season, each meet kind of builds upon the one before that,” Sparks said. “This is really the culmination of the entire indoor track season.”
The Irish women’s team on its way to the NCAAs has a strong core of experienced athletes who have previously competed at the meet. Sparks said he believes this wealth of experience should give Notre Dame a boost in the upcoming competition.
“The women’s team has a lot of veteran upperclassmen who have been there and done it before,” he said. “There’s going to be a bit more peace of mind for them [when they are] competing. They know what to expect, and obviously, they’re excited and looking forward to it.”
The women’s distance medley relay team, a talented quartet of junior Kelly Hart and seniors Payton Miller, Samantha Murray and Jessica Harris, will be looking to earn All-American honors for Notre Dame in that event for the fifth consecutive year.
“The one on the women’s side who has really helped carry our team to where it is now is Jess Harris, helping get the distance medley relay qualified and [qualifying] in her individual event,” Sparks said of Harris, who has won the ACC title in the mile for two consecutive years.
Notre Dame’s male athletes at the event might not have the same level of national-championship-meet experience, but Sparks is confident they will rise to the challenge.
“They’ve been in big meet situations before in qualifying for this meet, so I don’t think they’ll be overwhelmed by the experience of it,” he said. “The unique nature of our sport, of any sport, [is] you’ve competed in that event to [qualify for] that event, and you’ve just got to do the same thing and you’ll represent yourself well.”
The Irish have another highly talented distance medley relay squad on the men’s side. The team of graduate student Jake Dumford, junior Edward Cheatham, sophomore Clay Goldman and freshman Yared Nuguse will be looking to crack the top eight nationally and are well-equipped to do so, Sparks said.
“They’ve got a lot of pride in that event,” he said. “In 2012, [the Notre Dame men] were NCAA champions in the distance medley relay. It’s been a few years since they’ve been there as a team, but … there’s been a lot of positive traditions with that event.”
Ultimately, Sparks said he sees an Irish team that has been working hard all year and believes it is more than prepared to put forth its best effort on collegiate indoor track and field’s biggest stage.
“The key to any sport is staying healthy and taking baby steps day after day, and the ones that are still competing at the NCAA meet have been able to do those things, and they’re all healthy and fit and ready to go,” he said.
The meet will take place at Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium on the campus of Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. Competition will begin this Friday and will run through Saturday.