Irish men take 1st place
By DAVE COOK
Exactly one year ago, Ayesha Boyd won her first collegiate race — the 400-meter dash at the Tom Botts Invitational.
Last weekend, Boyd returned to the Invitational not as an aspiring freshman but as an experienced veteran. She won all three races she competed in and earned Female Athlete of the Meet honors. Boyd led the Irish women to a second-place finish, while the men finished in first place among the four teams present at the meet.
"Ayesha has made tremendous improvements," sprinting coach John Millar said. "She's a lot more confident in what she's doing. It was just a matter of time with her."
Although Boyd continues to be strong in the 400, she has found her own niche as the top Irish runner in both the 100- and 200-meter dash. She won both the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the Invitational and concluded her impressive showing with a victory in the 4x100 relay. Boyd's 100-meter time of 11.73 seconds was also a personal-best for the sophomore.
Boyd set the pace in a meet dominated by Irish sprinters. The sprinting corps, in its most impressive showing of the year, won 12 of the 13 events. Its only loss came in the men's 400-meter hurdles where Napoleon Suarez came in second place, losing to winner Ryan Boyington of Missouri by only .12 seconds.
Overall, the sprinting corps had 26 top-five finishes with two Irish runners scoring in each of the 10 individual events.
"On the women's side, we had some people who we felt could go in there and win," Millar said. "I was really excited about the men. Going into the meet we didn't expect to win the 100- and 200-meter. Our men's sprinters in the last couple weeks have really improved and are on a mission to do well and perform well."
The men's sprint team showed their depth this weekend, finishing with 16 top-five finishes in the seven sprint events. After losing three of their top sprinters at the conclusion of the indoor season, several runners, such as sophomore Ryan Hurd and freshman Trevor McClain-Duer, stepped up.
The two sprinters combined for four victories on the weekend — Hurd in the 200-meter and 4x100 relay and McClain-Duer in the 400-meter and 4x400 relay. Also having a strong weekend was Nick Saracco, who ran a personal-best 400-meter time in 49.56 seconds and was also part of the 4x400 relay team.
"I noticed this weekend that the morale on the team was pretty high," Saracco said. "It was just a great meet and a great boost and we're now looking forward to all the meets coming up because we're very confident we can perform well in all these meets."
The women's sprinting corps continued its record-breaking season this weekend under the stellar performance of Liz Grow. Grow finished the meet with two victories — the 400-meter dash and the 4x100 relay — and a second-place effort in the 200-meter. Her times in the 400 and the 4x100 relay also provisionally qualified her for the NCAA championships in May. Her 53.14-second time in the 400 is also her second-best time of the season behind a 53.1-second effort at the Alex Wilson Invitational during the indoor season.
"I feel comfortable and confident about where she's at right now," Millar said. "We hoped she would be right around the [NCAA] automatic time so we wouldn't have to worry about her qualifying anymore."
Also with multiple wins on the weekend was junior Tameisha King, who has proved to be perhaps the most versatile athlete on the Irish squad. King had victories in the 100-meter hurdles, the long jump and the 4x100 relay at the Invitational. A 2002 NCAA Indoor Championship qualifier in the long jump, King out-jumped her opponents by almost seven inches in the long jump competition.
In the men's 1,500-meter run, Pat Conway defended his title at the Invitational with a 3:50.74 effort. Conway is also looking to defend his 1,500-meter title next week at the Mt. SAC Relays.
Fellow senior Luke Watson was re-acclimating himself in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, running an 8:50.68 time good enough for a NCAA provisional qualifier. The last time Watson competed in the steeplechase was sophomore year at the 2000 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The success of the Irish track and field team was only secondary to its ultimate goal: to get ready for next weekend's Mt. SAC Relays and the Big East Championships that are only three weeks away.
"It's a good gauge to see where we're at," Millar said. "We're healthy, and going into the next three weeks we have things we want to achieve."
All Sports Stories for Monday, April 15, 2002