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Track and Field

Track and Field prepares to host ACC Championships

| Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Notre Dame Track and Field squads are preparing to host the ACC Championships starting Thursday and running through Saturday. The Irish are coming off a strong showing at the Alex Wilson Invitational where the men’s distance medley relay team set a record for the second-fastest time in NCAA history.

Head coach Matt Sparks gave credit to a couple of the unsung runners that allowed them to have such success.

“Everybody gives all the credit to [junior distance runner] Yared Nuguse, which he deserves for being the killer at the end of any race that he ever runs,” Sparks said. “But the overlooked heroes of that race were [graduate student sprinter] Ed Cheathem and [junior middle distance runner] Sam Voelz in the 400 and 800 legs respectively.”

And that’s been something Sparks has emphasized for his team: contribution comes from many members. Not only that, it comes from members who weren’t scholarship athletes.

“We talk about [Nuguse] as a walk-on doing the great things that he has done,” Sparks said. “[Junior thrower] Rachel [Tanczos] is the same way. Abbey [Kapitan] is the same way. They are both walk-ons as well to get to where they are now. They are two of the best throwers in the country.”

Now, the Irish are gearing up for the all-important postseason, and Sparks says another point of emphasis for his team has been their preparation to this point.

“The theme that we have had with discussing the meet with the athletes — and we will talk more about throughout the week— is that you have done things to get to this level of competition,” he said. “You have qualified for the conference meet, you have proven to the coaches that this is a level that you can excel on, and now you just have to come out and do what you have done all year because so many people when the lights are brighter try to change what they have done all year.

“Especially for some of those elite kids, they just need to come out and do what they have done all year and they will be in a good place.”

With such an important meet looming, Sparks says the team is taking measures to ensure everyone is in a good state both mentally and physically.

“There are just two days of practice and then teams are here and facilities shut down for pre-meet stuff on Wednesday,” Sparks said. “There might be a little bit extra energy just from the fact that we are tapering and the workouts will be a little bit lighter this week. There is not a whole lot of extra training that can be done this week.’’

Sparks said the resting period will allow the team to prepare for the championships, where they will compete in more events than normal.

Sparks also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of hosting the events at their own facility. While members of the track and field team have the home field advantage, they also have to go to class Thursday and Friday, unlike the visiting teams, Sparks said.

“Everyone reading the paper in Notre Dame land knows that school is challenging here, he said. “We are going to be in class for the whole week for the most part, but the teams we are competing against won’t have to worry about anything besides competing. We still sleep in our own beds and have our normal routines, but sometimes that wears you a bit thin when you are still going to class during that time.”

Whatever the case, Sparks and his team are ready to test their mettle when the moment is the biggest.

“It’s our first really significant, scored meet of the year and with that comes added pressure,” Sparks said. “We’ve had some big things from [Nuguse] to [Tanczos] to other kids that have stepped up and done well when the lights aren’t as bright. This is the first time for anybody on the team to step up when the stakes are bigger.”

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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