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Women's Track and Field 2001 Preview

Jan. 4, 2001

The Notre Dame women’s track and field team has evolved from its humble beginnings in 1991 to one of the most talented and emerging programs in the nation.

Three-time high jump All-American Jennifer Engelhardt has graduated, but the Irish boast a stable of young talent that signals great things to come in the women’s track and field program.

Junior sprinter Liz Grow qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships 400 meters in 2000 and sophomore Tameisha King had one of the best freshman seasons of any Irish track and field athlete – male or female.

King broke both the indoor and outdoor Notre Dame long jump records in her first few attempts of the year. She earned all-BIG EAST honors with a second-place finish in the long jump at the BIG EAST outdoor meet. Her rookie year was capped by an All-American ninth-place finish at the NCAA outdoor championships and a second-place finish in the U.S. Junior National meet.

King and Grow are not the only returning talents on the Irish roster. Notre Dame has the ability to compete for a BIG EAST championship and strive to send even more qualifiers to the NCAA championships. Here is a look at the specialty groups on the 2000 women’s track and field squad:

Sprints and Hurdles:

The Irish will have some depth in this group. BIG EAST 400 meter champion Liz Grow, who finished either first or second in six sprint finals last season, anchors the group. Grow qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships in the 400 meters and finished seventh in her heat.

Senior Carri Lenz finished fourth in 400 meter hurdles at the 2000 BIG EAST outdoor championships. Junior Amanda Alvarez ran two career-best times in the indoor 200 and 400-meters in 2000. King finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2000 BIG EAST outdoor meet.

“I am really excited about the women in this group. We have a good nucleus with Liz Grow coming back in the 200 and 400-meters. Tameisha King made big improvements in the hurdles last season and we never really focused our training on that specialty. We need to spend a little bit more time on the hurdles with her and I think Tameisha can do some really great things,” says Irish assistant coach John Millar.

“(Sophomore) Kymia Love was injured last year and never got to the level I believe she can get to. I think she is really talented and, after a full summer of training, is ready to show what she can do.

“(Freshman) Ayesha Boyd can cover a whole range of events for us and it is just a matter of figuring out where she can be the most productive and where her potential lies. She will be counted on to help us in the relays as well.

“Carri Lenz placed in the conference for the 400-meter hurdles (fourth in the 2000 outdoor BIG EAST championships). She has only run that event for a year and half – so there is some room for improvement. If she really sets her mind to it, she can do some good things there.

“(Sophomore) Tiffany Tatum was really impressive in the fall (of 1999) but went overseas to Greece for the school year. She has spent the whole summer working out and can really bring some ability to the lineup for us in the short sprints.

“We have some really impressive young athletes in the sprints and hurdles category. I am excited and I think we just need to build on what we have already accomplished. Last season I was pleased and the freshmen were able to learn a lot. This is the year when I tend to look for the most improvement.”

Distance:

Similar to the cross country season, the Irish have a contingent of talented freshmen who will look to make an impact in their first year of collegiate competition. Sophomore Jennifer Handley is the top returning talent. She won the 3,000 meters at the 2000 Indy Relays and finished 12th in the event at the BIG EAST meet. Junior Hilary Burn will be assigned the task of running the new women’s event: the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Burn finished second in the 3,000 meters at the Spring Opener and Indy Relays last season.

Freshmen Beth Androski, Jessica Campbell, Kristen Dodd, Rachel Endress, Megan Johnson, Maggie Nelson, Julia Schmidt and Melissa Webb all have the ability to contribute in 2001.

“We have a whole bunch of kids that showed at various times they can be very good, but they have not done it on a consistent basis. Some of the kids will have to decide that this is the time to get it done,” says Irish assistant Tim Connelly.

“Jennifer Handley will need to continue to develop to the next level. There were times when she showed that she was as good as anyone out there, she just needs to do that every time.

“Melissa Webb has the ability to compete in the 800 meters at a very high level. She has a lot of talent and can be one of the top distance specialists on our roster.

“An interesting addition to the women’s meets this season is the 3,000-meter steeplechase. It will be a very tough event, but I think Hilary Burn will be able to do some good things for us. She has been working on it and can really put up some good times when she performs to the utmost of her potential.

“We have some quality depth and a lot of kids that have the ability to be very good. The freshmen are going to have to decide they are going to compete at this level right away. Competing in the BIG EAST is not an easy thing to become accustomed to. Last year in the 3,000 meters, you almost had to run an NCAA qualifying time to even score in the BIG EAST championship meet.”

Jumps and Throws:

The graduation of Jennifer Engelhardt leaves a gap in this group, but a talented group of underclassmen have the ability to ease the loss of Engelhardt. Jaime Volkmer owns the Notre Dame triple jump and pole vault record, while Tameisha King has the long jump record. Volkmer and King will be counted on for even greater feats in 2001.

The pole vault is one of the strongest groups on the roster with Volkmer, Natalie Hallett, Bethany Wilson and freshman Jill VanWeelden. The Irish can count on some high finishes from this contingent.

Junior Dore DeBartolo owns four school records and is poised to become one of the greatest throwers in Notre Dame history. An all-BIG EAST performer, DeBartolo has the ability to score in the shot put, hammer and discus throws.

“We are losing Jennifer Engelhardt and that hurts. You cannot just replace someone that was seventh at the Olympic trials. Jennifer Kearney is clearing 5-8 as a freshman out of Texas. She is going to have to come in and get strong. Jennifer Engelhardt is still here, she is going to train for the next four years. If Kearney can learn from Engelhardt, she is going to have a good year,” says Irish assistant coach Scott Winsor.

“Jaime Volkmer and Tameisha King are our two team leaders. Tameisha obviously had an awesome freshman year. She was ranked 19th going into the NCAAs last year and made the cut, then finished an All-American as a freshman. You can’t ask for any more than that.

“Jaime Volkmer is going to be a leader in the pole vault and the triple jump. She enjoys the pole vault a little more, but she understands that she has to triple jump for us. She is right on the verge of doing great things in the pole vault. I have seen her attempt over 12 feet and it is just a matter of how bad she wants it. She has to go into competition with an attitude. She needs to tell herself she is as good as anyone out there. As soon as she develops that, she is going to be one heck of a competitor to deal with.

“Natalie Hallett and Bethany Wilson also have done good things in the pole vault. Add freshman Jill VanWeelden, who is coming in clearing 11 feet and can be an instant contributor. We have a very good pole vault contingent.

“In the throws, it is going to be Dore DeBartolo across the board. She has unbelievable physical talent. If she puts her mind to it, she can do what she wants when she wants to do it.”