Jan. 13, 2017
By Megan Golden
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Forty-three days have passed since the University of Notre Dame track and field team has competed. Following a lull in the action, the Irish will hit the road for their first meet in 2017, traveling to Illinois to compete in the Illini Classic (Champaign, Ill.) at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday.
Notre Dame returns from Christmas break rejuvenated and prepared for a daunting upcoming schedule. The Irish will make their first trip to the Illini Classic, which will feature 10 different schools.
WHAT: Illini Classic
WHEN: Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 11 a.m. ET
WHERE: The University of Illinois Armory (Champaign, Ill.)
LIVE RESULTS: www.fightingillini.com/track/livestats
The Irish will compete against seven men’s teams and 10 women’s teams. Bradley, Butler, DePaul, Eastern Illinois, Illinois, Southern Illinois and St. Louis have registered men’s and women’s squads in the meet. Northern Illinois, Tennessee Tech and Western Michigan will strictly compete on the women’s side.
Despite the No. 9 Notre Dame women being the only ranked team, the Irish coaching staff fully expects all teams–especially Illinois–to vie for first place on Saturday.
WHAT TO WATCH
Freshman Troy Pride Jr. will make his college debut on the indoor track, competing in the 60m dash and the 200m dash. He was a four-time state champion at Greer Senior High School (Greer, S.C.), winning titles in the 400m (twice), the 200m and the 100m.
Pride, who appeared in eight Irish football games this past fall, has been cleared to compete during the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.
“It’s only been a week, but I can tell he is very athletic,” Turner said. “It will take him several weeks before his body is acclimated and he responds to the sprint workouts, which are quite different from his football workouts. Saturday is just an opportunity for him to dust off the cobwebs and get back into the track and field world.”
Senior Tommy Grant and sophomore Zach Zajdel also will race in the 60m and 200m.
“I haven’t had this many short sprinters in a few years,” Turner said. “I am excited to see what they can do this year. I’m looking for solid performances, but we will be challenged by Illinois.”
Freshman Naya Sharp, who has just one meet under her belt, will compete in the 60m dash, 60m hurdles and long jump.
“Jernaya is a very explosive sprinter, hurdler and horizontal jumper,” Turner said. “She brings intensity to every workout. The 60m hurdles and the long jump are both technical events, and as a freshman, she is still working on refining her technique. Once she smooths out her technique, she will be a force. I expect her to be very competitive.”
SHORT DISTANCE AWAY
Senior Jacob Dumford is scheduled to race in the 800m as he continues to increase his distance and speed with each meet. Expect Dumford to compete for a conference title in the one-mile race at the conclusion of the indoor season.
Like Dumford, the majority of the Irish distance squad continues to recover from the fall and slowly work their way back to long runs. Graduate student Molly Seidel and sophomore Anna Rohrer, who highlight the women’s distance squad, will begin competition later this season.
TOP OF THE CROP
The Irish women checked in at No. 9 in Monday’s NCAA Preseason Poll, marking the highest preseason ranking in program history. The top-10 ranking has Notre Dame sitting ahead of all other Atlantic Coast Conference teams, followed by No. 14 Miami and No. 16 North Carolina State.
Notre Dame will host the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships Feb. 23-25 at Loftus Sports Center.
Live results are available at www.fightingillini.com/track/livestats. Follow @NDXCTF for a closer, behind-the-scenes look at the Irish track and field program.
Megan Golden, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since August of 2016. In her role, she coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse and cross country/track and field programs. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Golden is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary’s College and former Irish women’s basketball manager. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she worked in public relations with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.