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Track and Field

Track and field looks to put together a strong performance at Grand Valley State

| Friday, January 17, 2020

Track and field will have their first meet of the new semester Friday at the Bill Clinger Invitational at Grand Valley State University.

Head coach Matt Sparks said he is excited to see how his team will perform following a long break from practices.

“A big piece that we are looking for here is if the kids can come back and compete at a similar level to before break. And then we can start to make some decisions from there,” Sparks said. “We’ve been practicing for a week now — we didn’t start practicing until they got back from class. And it will be a good barometer of how well winter break training went.”

Sparks said the first week of practice has gone well, and he believes the majority of the team was able to train hard over break.

“Everyone, for the most part at least, came back healthy,” Sparks said. “There’s always a concern of who slipped on the ice or didn’t get a chance to train. Thankfully the winter wasn’t too rough, so they were still able to get out and do what they wanted to do for the most part, wherever they were throughout the United States.”

Although a lot of top athletes will be competing for the Irish, Sparks said the distance squads and many of the elite throwers, including junior Rachel Tanczos who broke a school record at a meet in December, will be training through the meet. 

Anna Mason | The Observer

Irish junior distance runner Brendan Fraser competes in the 3000 meters during the Meyo Invitational on Feb. 2, 2019.

Despite not being able to watch some of his top athletes compete, Sparks said he is excited to see the young talent of the team.

“It’s another chance for the young, developing athletes to get a competition in before we get to the more competitive meets later in the year,” Sparks said.

One of the young athletes Sparks is excited to watch is sophomore pole vaulter Colton Crum, who was all-conference in the indoor season last year but decided to redshirt during the outdoor season.

“He had a good winter of training, and I know he’s looking forward to get out and compete against someone else, as he has been practicing and competing with his teammates for the last nine months since he competed in indoor track last season,” Sparks said. “He’s one we expect to make a big impression on the conference moving forward.”

Sparks also said he is excited to see the women hurdlers compete. The hurdlers are led by senior Summer Thorpe, who qualified for the indoor national meet last year.

There will mostly be Division II and III schools at the meet, making the Irish the presumptive favorites. Sparks said the facilities at Grand Valley State and the logistics of the trip are the reasons why the Irish decided to compete in Friday’s meet. 

“It’s one of the better facilities in the Midwest, and it is what drew us to Grand Valley State. They have a 300-meter track, seating for a couple thousand people and it’s a short day trip. It’s not something we have to miss a lot of classes for either,” Sparks said.

Looking ahead, the Irish will meet just about every weekend for the next month and a half. The competition at these meets will slowly get more competitive. Next Saturday, the Irish will host the Notre Dame Invitational featuring conference rival Louisville, Loyola Chicago, Marquette and Illinois State. Sparks said the men’s distance squad will be back in action next week along with half of the women’s distance team.

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