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Track and Field

Distance squad dominates at Notre Dame Invitational

| Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Notre Dame track and field squads were back in competition at home this past weekend for the Notre Dame Invitational, featuring four other teams: Louisville, Marquette, Loyola Chicago and Illinois State. 

Anna Mason
Irish junior Kelly Koehnen moves ahead in the 3,000m race during the Meyo Invitational at the Loftus Sports Center on Feb. 2.

There were impressive performances across the board for the Irish, but once again the distance squad shined. 

Irish head coach Matt Sparks was pleased at the depth of the distance squad in multiple events.

“One thing we are proud of with the distance group is that there are eight distance events on the weekend and we won them all,” Sparks said. “It is a neat thing to do with some pretty good cross country distance schools in the meet.”

One race that really stood out to Sparks was the 3,000m race. On the men’s side, the Irish took the top five places. In fact, the top four runners, senior Peter Monahan, senior Kevin Salvano, sophomore Matthew Carmody and sophomore Zach Kreft, were separated by less than three seconds.

“The men were going fast from the start and our top four or five there ran super fast and were competitive with each other but also worked together,” Sparks said.

The women’s race was much different than the men’s side, but in the end, graduate student Rachel DaDamio took home the victory.

“[DaDamio] beat [Louisville’s] Dorcas Wasike, who was a well-known name in the 10,000m a couple of years ago,” Sparks said. “She is a multi-time All-American, and for [DaDamio] to get a win over Dorcas shows a lot about what she can do at the end of races. She has shown us a lot in practice, but now she has shown us that she can win races. We had some other girls [achieve a personal record] throughout that race as well.”

Sparks was equally impressed by the team’s top hurdler, senior Summer Thorpe.

“Summer not only won but ran a really good time for this time of year, which will set her up for great things for the rest of the season,” Sparks said.

The throwers also did very well for the Irish. For the women, senior Abbey Kapitan stepped up for the Irish to win the weight throw and take second in the shot put. On the men’s side, the Irish took the top three spots in the weight throw with senior Logan Kusky leading the way.

Sparks was pleased Kapitan was able to step up and take first in the weight throw despite some difficult competition.

“[Louisville] has a lady who’s one of the top throwers in the country competing right along with Abby [Kapitan] and [junior] Rachel [Tanczos],” Sparks said. “Tanczos had a bit of a back issue that held her out of the competition. There was a bit less competition on the women’s side and Abby rose to the occasion to claim the win this time.”

Both 4×400-meter relay teams placed third at the meet.

Sparks is aware there is a huge lack of 400m runners on the women’s side.

“That relay was all 800-meter runners and milers, so we don’t have any women’s 400m runners right now,” he said. “And for the time being that is going to be a gap in our performance.”

The men’s side will also need to improve as the season continues.

“The men are led by [graduate student] Edward Cheatham and a few middle distance runners like [junior] Sam Voelz, who won the 1,000m and came back to run a really good leg in the 4×400,” Sparks said. “There are some pieces there on the men’s side and we can put together a respectable 4×4 team with Ed and Sam leading the way for that group.”

Sparks hopes the freshmen on the team can continue to improve on a weekly basis. One freshman he has high hopes on is Michael Shoaf, who was one of the best throwers in the country coming out of high school and placed second in the weight throw on Saturday.

“We know that he is going to continue to improve because each week he learns a lot of good things and how to throw heavier increments,” Sparks said. “He got second this week, and we hope he will continue to progress and be in contention to score points at the conference meet at the end of the year.”

Sparks also hopes freshman high jumper Sarah Flight can make an impact for the Irish at the end of the season.

“She was at her collegiate record, and she is another one who we expect to continue to improve and be on the verge of scoring points come the ACC Championship,” Sparks said.

The goal of the team at the moment is to get a little better every week and to be ready for the bigger meets at the end of the year.

“You don’t need to make any huge adjustments, but you need to keep taking little steps every weekend,” Sparks said. “If you are able to do that, you are able to set yourself up well at the end of the season.”

The Irish will be back in competition this Friday and Saturday at the Power 5 Invitational, which will take place at the University of Michigan. 

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

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