Track teams split to compete at Stanford, ASU and Purdue
By ANDREW SOUKUP
Associate Sports Editor
The snow has almost disappeared from the infield of the track. The temperature is slowly but steadily rising. The sun is poking through the clouds more and more each day. It can only mean one thing.
It's time for the outdoor track season to start.
After a two-month long indoor season, both the mens' and womens' track teams will kick off the outdoor season tomorrow at meets across the nation.
A small group of distance runners will be traveling to California to compete in the Stanford Invitational, while a number of middle-distance athletes and sprinters will join several field event athletes at the Arizona State Invitational. The rest of the team will head to West Lafayette to compete in the Purdue Invitational.
The Irish are splitting up the team this way to maximize the competition for their athletes. For example, the long-distance runners will be competing against a slew of national-class runners at Stanford in what may be an early-season preview of the outdoor NCAA championship meet later this summer.
Ryan Shay headlines the list of five Irish athletes who will be competing at Stanford. Shay, who placed ninth in the NCAA indoor championships three weeks ago, will be competing for the first time this season in his specialty event, the 10,000-meter run. At last year's Olympic Trials, Shay placed 10th and was the only runner to finish who had college eligibility remaining, making him a favorite to capture the NCAA outdoor title this year.
The Irish men will also be sending long-distance specialists Todd Mobley and Sean McManus. The top women runners, Jennifer Handley and Chrissy Kuenster, will join them.
Liz Grow headlines the list of female athletes heading to Arizona State. Grow placed eighth in the 400-meter dash at the NCAA indoor championships and shifts her focus to qualifying for the outdoor national championships Saturday. Although she failed to defend her 400-meter indoor Big East title last month, she still can win her second consecutive outdoor Big East title in one month.
But Grow is not the only top sprinter heading to Arizona State. She will be joined by a trio of young, talented runners: Ayesha Boyd, Kristen Dodd, and Kymia Love. The foursome have set their sights on qualifying for the outdoor national championships in the 4x400-meter relay. They missed making the indoor championships by a mere three-hundredths of a second.
Tameisha King, Jamie Volkmer, and Jill VanWeelden will represent the Irish in the field events. King will be entered in the long jump and may compete in the 100-meter hurdles as well. Meanwhile, Volkmer and VanWeelden will be entered in the pole vault. Volkmer may also compete in the triple jump as well.
Freshman Megan Johnson, who has proven herself capable in the mile run during the indoor season, will shift to the slightly shorter 1,500-meter run beginning Saturday.
On the mens' side, the Irish will send a quality group of sprinters to compete at Arizona State. Tom Gilbert and Travis Davey will definitely compete in their best event, the 100-meter dash. Freshman sensation James Bracken, who surprised Irish coaches in the indoor season with his success in the 400-meter dash, will probably stay in the 400 for Saturday's meet.
Javelin specialists Mike Magadin and Matt O'Brien will compete in their first event of the season this weekend. O'Brien was the top javelin specialist for the Irish last spring, while Magadin, who competed in six meets last year, showed considerable promise by placing fifth or better five times.
Andrew Cooper, the reigning Big East indoor high jump champion, will also kick off his outdoor season at Arizona State. Cooper, who surprised many people with his victory in the Big East championships a month ago, will be the only high jumper competing for the Irish.
Freshman Godwin Mbagwu will probably compete in the long jump and the triple jump at Arizona State. He had his best performance in his first collegiate meet, narrowly missing the NCAA provisional cut, but couldn't break his personal best the rest of the season.
Middle-distance specialists Sean Zanderson and Kevin Somak will also be competing in Arizona this weekend.
The rest of both teams will travel to West Lafayette to compete in the Purdue Invitational on Saturday. The Arizona State Invitational begins today and continues through Saturday, while the Stanford Invitational takes place on Saturday only.
All Sports Stories for Friday, March 30, 2001