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Sports

Track and field to open indoor season at Blue and Gold Invitational

| Friday, December 6, 2019

Notre Dame will kick off the indoor season this Friday in the Loftus Sports Center with the Blue and Gold Invitational.

Director of track and field Matt Sparks said the team will use the meet to get baseline times and as a warmup for future meets.

“It’s a pre-test to see where we are,” Sparks said. “There is no benchmark about what’s success or what’s not. It’s just a starting point to get better from and use that performance to inspire them to train throughout winter break and be ready to go for the regular season.”

The meet will also be used to clear up some questions for the coaches, Sparks noted.

“This meet is designed to help clarify some things in the coaches’ minds of whose made progress since we last saw them compete in May and June,” he said. “And with some new faces to see how they have handled the fall conditioning phase.”

The athletes who recently competed at the NCAA Championships will not be participating in the meet, Sparks mentioned, since it is designed for athletes without a cross country season.

“For the student athletes, it’s a chance for them to see the improvements they’ve made since they started practicing and conditioning in September,” Sparks said. “It’s more of a big deal for the kids on the track team that didn’t have a cross country season. It’s something for them to look forward to during the fall.”

This is the only meet for the Irish before the winter break. Sparks hopes this meet will encourage the athletes to train hard over the break.

“We need to get them focused for the hardest part of the season during winter break when we don’t see them for four weeks,” Sparks said.

There will be many freshmen competing in the meet. Sparks mentioned thrower Michael Shoaf as someone he is excited to see compete.

“Shoaf is a thrower that’s coming in that was a superstar shot put guy out of Ohio,” Sparks said. “It’s tough to step up in the throws and be significant immediately.”

Many athletes who have not participated in meets lately will be competing on Friday as well.

“We are excited to see what they can do,” Sparks said. “[Senior] Ryan Schweizer was a conference scorer as a freshman and he has had multiple surgeries and injuries that have kept him out for two and a half years. He will run his first race in awhile.”

Sparks said he is also excited to see sophomore Elena Denner compete because she has not been in action in over a year. Her twin sister, Maddy Denner, has been a big contributor to the team in both track and cross country.

Sparks discussed the success of the throwing squad in recent years.

“Our throwers really stepped up last winter in the weight throw with [senior] Logan Kusky being the ACC champion on the men’s side and [junior] Rachel Tanczos being the women’s ACC champion in the weight throw also,” Sparks said. “And then [senior] Abbey Kapitan was second. Those three in the throws should compete for ACC championships in the throws again.”

Senior hurdler Summer Thorpe, who was an NCAA qualifier last spring, will also be an integral part of the team.

“Expect Summer to lead [the hurdlers] to a successful season,” Sparks said.

Sparks also discussed sophomore pole vaulter Colton Crum, who was All-Conference in the indoor season as a true freshman last year.

“He was redshirted outdoor, and he has really matured a lot and improved a lot as a result of the redshirt season and throughout the summer,” Sparks said.

While the team looks to be strong in distance, throwing and hurdles, Sparks emphasized there are still gaps that need to be filled.

“In the long jump, triple jump, and high jump there are not even a lot of names to mention, but there are definitely some people there that can step up and improve,” Sparks said. “We’ve got some young bodies. We will see what they have done throughout the fall to see if they can transition from being elite high school athletes to college athletes and how long that transition will take.”

The goal for the team throughout the season is to get better day after day, Sparks asserted. 

“If you take care of the day-to-day goals of getting better, then we will be where we need to be at the ACC Championships,” he said.

Other teams at Friday’s meet will include Bethel College, Butler, DePaul, Detroit Mercy, Marquette and Valparaiso. Field events will begin at 4 p.m. and track events will start at 6 p.m.

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