Track and field set to return to action
Nate Moller | Friday, January 14, 2022
The Irish track and field team will resume their indoor competition this Saturday at the Simmons-Harvey Invitational in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
After over a month off of competition, head coach Matt Sparks is excited to return to action and see his athletes compete after a long break.
“For us, it’s our rust buster meet after the long Christmas break. It will be a chance to see where everybody is and what they were able to accomplish during their time off,” Sparks said. “Our men’s distance runners won’t be racing. And, the majority of the women runners that raced the national cross country championships won’t be racing either. It will be a good chance for us to see the rest of the track team.”
One athlete that Sparks is excited to see on Saturday is graduate student sprinter Theo Chambers, who transferred from William & Mary.
“He is a grad student transfer from William & Mary in the 400 that has had a lot of success prior to getting here that could be a pivotal part of our distance medley relay team down the road. We are excited to see what he can do,” Sparks said.
Sparks is also excited to see his top throwers in junior Michael Shoaf and graduate student Rachel Tanczos compete this weekend.
“Hopefully they are up to speed. They both felt like they had a pretty good winter break of training. We will see if that shows itself on Saturday,” Sparks said.
Sophomore Jadin O’Brien is another athlete that Sparks is excited to see compete in the multi-events. O’Brien had a very successful freshman year that Sparks is hoping to see her build off of.
“I’m excited to see our women’s multi-athletes with Jadin O’Brien leading the way there,” Sparks said. “She had a really good fall of training, so hopefully we see results true to that labor on Saturday.”
Sparks is excited to see how his team will respond to the new organization among the team. Coach Zuyderwyk will take over the sprints group after leading the hurdles and multi-event athletes for the last three seasons.
“[Coach Zuyderwyk] has now taken over our sprints group, so that group that used to be two groups is now confined into one. There used to be twelve and twelve between those two groups, but now there is one group with roughly 25 athletes,” Sparks said. “I am excited to see how that group molds and works together over the course of the indoor track season.”
One home meet that Sparks is eyeing down the road is the Meyo Invitational.
“The Meyo Invitational is our big home meet on February 4th and 5th. We will probably have nine or ten power five schools at that meet at home. It has been two years since we have had a big meet here. So, it will be fun to show off our indoor facilities here at home,” Sparks said.
Another important meet for qualifying purposes is the Alex Wilson Invitational.
“Our distance medley relay teams will compete at the Alex Wilson Invitational a week before the conference meet,” Sparks said. “We will hopefully do some big things qualifying-wise at that one.”
With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, Sparks hopes that his team can stay healthy and be prepared to compete throughout the season, but that will be a difficult task.
“It’s playing with a moving target. We are trying to run outside more than inside if possible. We are trying to thin out the herd in the indoor facilities by having more athletes practice outside than inside. There are a lot of moving targets there and it’s hard to master the COVID game,” Sparks said.