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Track and Field

Track and field to face strong competition at Notre Dame Invitational

| Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Track and field will be back in competition this Saturday for the Notre Dame Invitational.

The team competed at Grand Valley State last weekend and will look to build off some stellar performances from that meet. The Notre Dame Invitational will have the Irish facing off against ACC foe Louisville, Big East Conference champion Marquette, Missouri Valley Conference champion Illinois State and Loyola Chicago.

Despite the relatively small field, head coach Matt Sparks is looking forward to a competitive but unique setting.

“It will be good to have a small but competitive meet,” Sparks said.  “Now in the college track and field world where we have these big invitationals, people tend to get lost in the shuffle. It will be neat to have some smaller races and some straight head-to-head competition that we lack sometimes in our sport.”

Sparks also acknowledged the importance of having tough competition in early season meets.

“It’s good practice for when we get to conference and we are going for specific places and points, come ACC and NCAA Championship time,” he said.

Hannah Huelskamp | The Observer

Irish freshman pole vaulter Olivia Fabry makes a vault during the Blue-Gold Invitational on Dec. 6 at Loftus Sports Center. Fabry opened her college career with a fourth-place finish, hitting a 3.45m mark.

Sparks hopes that the smaller meet setting will prove beneficial to underclassmen on the team.

“It’s good for underclassmen who have a hard time finding their niche in these big meets,” he said. “It allows them to see where they specifically are in a race. Often we are in meets where there are 15 different heats of a given meet, but at this meet there will be a lot of races where there might be only one section of each race, and they will know exactly where they fall in the competition.”

The throwers are arguably the strongest group for the Irish this season. While the group did not compete in last week’s meet, they looked very solid in December and will be competing this Saturday.

Sparks is excited to see how the throwers have improved since December’s Blue and Gold Invitational.

“I’m interested to see where they pick up from where they were in December,” Sparks said. ”They had such a great Blue and Gold Invitational in early December, and I know they have had a real positive experience training over the last five weeks. They just need to translate that into competition.”

An important event for the Irish this Saturday will be the last event of the meet: the 4-x-400 meter relay.

Sparks is especially excited to see the men’s 4-x-400 team in action. It will be led by graduate student Edward Cheatham but will have three younger runners on the relay as well.

“[Cheatham] has been a great leader for the men’s sprint group because the majority of that group are freshmen,” Sparks said. “It will be interesting to see how those guys handle the pressure of a scored team competition for the first time in their college career.”

Sparks expects the other teams at the meet to put up competitive 4-x-400 teams to compete against.

“Whenever you are a team that is battling for a conference title like Marquette and Illinois State, you have to have a good [4-x-400] team,” he said. “I’d like to see how we stack up with those guys, because if you are winning a conference title you have to be good in the event that closes a track meet. We will see if we can rise to the occasion of a competitive environment.”

Another competitor that Sparks is excited to see is graduate student Rachel DaDamio. DaDamio is a two time national qualifier in the outdoor 5K.

“She did not have cross country eligibility, so she has not competed since she did at last year’s outdoor national meet,” Sparks said. “She has trained really well over the last three months as she has prepared for the indoor and outdoor track seasons.”

About 80% of the men’s distance squad will be returning to action at the meet as well. Top runners junior Yared Nuguse and sophomore Dylan Jacobs will be held out, however, in order to train for the ACC Championships towards the end of the indoor season.

The meet will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and will take place in Loftus Sports Center.

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