Irish vaulters tune up for Big East meet in Canada
By ANDREW SOUKUP
Notre Dame's women's pole vault crew is arguably the best in the Big East — in every meet this season, at least one athlete has broken the indoor school record.
They are consistent — every week they jump within a foot of each other.
The only question remaining is how high the four vaulters can soar.
When Jaime Volkmer, Jennifer Van Weelden, Natalie Hallett and Bethany Wilson travel to Canada this weekend to compete in the Windsor Classic, the international community will get a glimpse of just how good the Irish vaulters are.
Jaime Volkmer, whose 12-foot vault last week at the Meyo Invitational set the current school record, has an excellent chance to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, according to field events coach Scott Winsor.
"Quite frankly, the main focus with her right now is making it to the NCAAs," he said. "She's definitely capable of doing that."
In order to provisionally qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships, Volkmer needs to clear 12-4 at either Saturday's meet or at next weekend's Big East Indoor Championships.
However, Volkmer isn't the only star vaulter on the Irish squad. In fact, the Notre Dame vaulters hold four of the top nine top vaults in the Big East — Volkmer, Van Weelden and Hallett are ranked two-three-five in the conference right now. In the Big East championship meet, the top eight places will score points.
Winsor isn't worried about his vaulters getting tired from vaulting four consecutive weekends in a row.
"It's not like they're wearing down," he said. "We've only had three meets. Keep them on the runway, keep them fresh, and get them ready for the Big East. All four can score."
The Irish were originally scheduled to compete in Indianapolis this weekend. But the Notre Dame coaching staff believed it would be better for their athletes to travel to Canada.
"Logistically, it's just an easier meet for us," said sprints coach John Millar. "This is really our only opportunity all season to compete at the Big East Championships on. Some of our freshman especially — they've never even been on a 200-meter track. We're trying to give them at least an opportunity to see what it's all about."
Notre Dame is only sending a small group of athletes. Junior Liz Grow, who ran 53.3 last week and has the fastest times for the Irish in the 60, 200 and 400-yard dashes, will not be travelling with the team. Instead, the Irish are focusing on sending a select group of athletes who need important competition.
All-American Tameisha King will be competing in the long jump and the 60-meter dash and hurdles. However, she will only take three jumps instead of the normal six in the long jump and will run only the preliminaries in the running events, according to Millar.
In addition, Ayesha Boyd and Kristen Dodd will also run the 60-meter dash. Dodd and Kymia Love, who ran a personal-best 400 last week, will run the 300-meter dash. Ana Morales will run the 1,000-meter run, an event she may compete in at Big East tournament. And Betsy Lazzeri will join King in the hurdles and will also high jump as she prepares for the Big East pentathlon competition.
uFifth-year senior thrower Emily Bienko has been cleared for a fifth-year of NCAA competition.
Bienko did not compete at last weekend's Meyo Invitational as Irish coaches awaited eligibility confirmation.
"She's good to compete," Piane said. "Her sophomore year she had a knee operation and didn't compete in any competition. It was just a question of getting the paperwork done."
Bienko, who is currently a law student at Notre Dame, did not anticipate competing for a fifth year and did not immediately apply for another year of eligibility.
The Irish are expecting her to compete in the Big East Championships next week.
All Sports Stories for Friday, February 9, 2001