The Irish track and field team was back in action this weekend at the PNC Lenny Lyles Indoor Invitational in Louisville, Kentucky. The Irish had a strong showing, finishing with 23 top-ten finishes and four event titles.
The strength of the team’s distance program was on full display in the 3000m, where freshman Ethan Coleman, junior Carter Cheeseman and graduate student Kevin Berry all set facility records. Coleman came across the line first in a blazing-fast time of 7:58, which was good for the ninth fastest time in school history.
Notre Dame head coach Matt Sparks was very pleased with the performance of his athletes in the 3000m.
“Our men’s distance runners are starting to come around,” Sparks said. “It was really nice to see Carter Cheeseman and Ethan Coleman in the 3K both have breakthrough performances. That’s Ethan’s first race in uniform as a freshman. He’s ninth in school history with that performance in his first college race.”
In the mile, the Irish tallied another victory with freshman John Schuler crossing the line in a time of 4:07.22. Freshman CJ Singleton finished second behind Schuler with a time of 4:08.66.
Sparks was excited about Schuler’s performance and the success of his young men’s distance team.
“We got another win from John Schuler in the mile, which was a facility record. We have a good group of young men’s distance runners who are freshmen. They’re still trying to figure some things out, but they are doing some big things already,” Sparks said.
Although the Irish have had a fantastic distance team for years, many of the team’s top athletes have graduated in recent years.
“On the national stage of cross country the last couple of years, we have been able to finish top ten to fifteen on both sides, but that was with veteran leaders like Maddy Denner on the women’s side and Yared Nuguse, Dylan Jacobs and Danny Kilrea [on the men’s side],” Sparks said.
Sparks acknowledged that this season has largely been a transition year for a men’s team that is in search of new leaders. One of these leaders, sophomore Carter Solomon, will be making his track debut in the coming weeks.
“The men’s team especially this year has been a bit of a transition with some new faces stepping up in Carter Solomon, who will make his [track-season] debut in a couple of weeks,” Sparks said.
Although there have been some growing pains, Sparks is excited that his younger athletes are gaining confidence and performing better as of late.
“It’s a bit of a growing pain trying to get those guys to assert themselves and find the confidence that the guys before them had,” Sparks said. “We have seen them start to come around, with some of the freshmen guys finding their way.”
On the women’s side, sophomore Sophie Novak also won the mile with a time of 4:47.76. Sparks said he hopes that Novak can build off of this success in the coming weeks.
“Sophie Novak is a sophomore that is starting to find her way to keep up with the women’s team. In the coming weeks, we just want to see her keep being more competitive,” Sparks said.
In the shot put, junior Michael Shoaf won the event with a throw of 18.84m. Shoaf also took second in the weight throw with a throw of 19.78m.
Sparks described Shoaf as a leader for the entire men’s track team.
“Our go-to leader of our entire men’s track team is Michael Shoaf, and he just continues to find ways to win, week after week,” Sparks said.
Sparks hopes Shoaf can continue to move up the NCAA list and ultimately reach the national meet.
“We just need to get him to move up on the NCAA list a little bit more,” Sparks said. “I think he’s 21st right now. Top 16 is what we are working towards to try to make the national meet. He’s winning, but we just need to keep finding some more distance to get him in there.”
Sparks also discussed sophomore Jadin O’Brien’s consistency across the board, which is necessary when she competes in the heptathlon.
“Jadin O’Brien is super consistent now that she is an upperclassman within the program, and she has been fourth at the national meet two years in a row,” Sparks said. “To work towards a national championship, you need to be consistent week after week as she competes in a variety of events every weekend.”
Sparks praised O’Brien’s ability to compete with athletes in a variety of areas to help prepare her for the heptathlon at nationals in Albuquerque.
“You may not see her winning an event, but she is competing at the highest level with people that are special in their events. She competes with the best high jumpers on our team everywhere we go, as well as the shot put. She’s not throwing the shot put at the national meet, but she’s competing with national-level shot putters week in and week out,” Sparks said. “When she’s able to do that, we expect big things from her when we get to Albuquerque in a month or so.”
Contact Nate Moller at firstname.lastname@example.org.