Jan. 19, 2018
By Ally Bartoszewicz
I’m sitting in the lounge of our new team facility, eating my typical applesauce cup, looking out the window at the field of winter wonderland I know a track is hiding beneath somewhere.
But fear not, Notre Dame, because this scene can only mean one thing – It’s indoor season once more. And starting this Saturday with the Notre Dame Invitational, your favorite track show is back in town.
And this means I’m back on the mission of interrupting the flow of my teammates’ daily lives with a lot of questions.
A Stage for New and Old
After weight training Monday, I first caught up with Coach Alan Turner about the upcoming meet.
“What makes it special is we are starting to get into the meat of the indoor season. We have a good representation of different schools from different conferences,” he noted.
“From our own ACC, UNC and Louisville will be there. The rest of the line-up includes Cincinnati, DePaul, Illinois State, and Northern Illinois.”
With this heightened competition, Turner knows the team’s potential to rise to the occasion. He highlighted the fact that Saturday’s meet will showcase the talents of new and old faces alike.
One new face is Christopher Meng, a sophomore who transferred from Iowa this past year. He is a fellow sprinter, which means I had the opportunity to bother him right before practice.
“It’s nice having people working toward the same goal as you,” he said about his decision to join the team. “And it’ll be my first time in a Notre Dame uniform. [Division I] athletics has been a big goal for awhile.”
Be sure to watch for his collegiate 60m and 200m debuts, fueled by his hours of hard work and his memories of running alongside beloved high school teammates, apparently coined “the squids.” (I asked him what aquatic creatures his new squad would be named after. He declined to comment at this time.)
I later had the chance to chat with Yared Nuguse, a first-year distance runner from Kentucky who will likewise be premiering his Notre Dame track career this weekend.
He received All-Great Lakes Regional honors in cross country last fall, but this was only the beginning, as track season has always given him the opportunity to show his full range.
“I do think I do better with shorter distances, and should be able to run a good 3k,” he said.
Coach Sean Carlson then joined the conversation, adding information the very humble Nuguse likely wouldn’t have provided on his own: “He also won the 800, and the 2-mile, and the mile, and the 4×800 at his [high school] state meet.”
And later, his distance teammate Bradley Wattleworth added, “Yared, aren’t you also an amazing violiner?”
Yared laughed, and confirmed the additional impressive entry in his repertoire.
Another freshman to keep on your radar is Annasophia Keller, also coming off of a solid cross country season for the Irish. She shared that her biggest excitement coming into her first home meet is the reunion with her all-time favorite event: the mile.
“I feel like it’s a good balance,” Keller said.”I always liked doing the speedwork. And then you need the endurance, which I have from cross country. And then I do a lot of swimming and biking.”
She’s always been a master of all trades. It was amongst early careers in gymnastics, soccer, and swimming that Keller discovered her true love for running in the fifth grade.
A successful cross country season quickly translated into a successful track season, which resulted in a first-place finish in the state of Illinois. The rest is a continual victorious history you won’t want to miss out on witnessing in-person.
Two more newcomers to look out for include long jumper Antonio Villegas and pole vaulter McKenna Caskey, both of whom came out of high school last year high in the national ranks for their respective events.
“I think the best part about competing at home is that you are familiar with the track and you get more people cheering for you,” Villegas said. “I like when the crowd claps along with the jump attempt because it gives you energy.”
Thus, people of South Bend, I rest my case: Bundle up in your parkas and infinity scarves and head on over to the Loftus Center this Saturday afternoon to cheer on these, and many many more, Irish athletes doing what they love in the comfort of their own 320-meter indoor track home.
And, once you’ve made that great decision, go ahead and make another one by saying hi to my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, and cousins who will also be in attendance. But don’t tell them I sent you.
See you there, and go Irish!
WHAT: Notre Dame Invitational
WHEN: January 20, 2018
WHERE: Loftus Sports Center
TIME: 10 a.m. ET
LIVE RESULTS: DeltaTiming.com
Ally Bartoszewicz is a senior sprinter for the Irish. She hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is studying English and Catholic Social Tradition.