Jan. 10, 2002
Competition: Purdue Open Indoor Track and Field Meet
Date: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2002
Site: West Lafayette, Ind., Lambert Fieldhouse
List of participants: Ayesha Boyd, Kristen Dodd, Tricia Floyd, Tiffany Gunn, Tameisha King, Betsy Lazzeri, Kymia Love, Latasha Steele
The women’s pole vault team also will compete this weekend at the Reno Pole Vault Summit in Reno, Nev., from Friday, Jan. 11 to Sunday, Jan. 13. Natalie Hallett, Jill Van Weelden and Jaime Volkmer will make the trip for the Irish.
2002 Indoor Season Kicks Off:
The Notre Dame women’s indoor track and field season begins this weekend as the Irish take part in the Purdue Open Indoor Track and Field Meet and the Reno Pole Vault Summit this weekend. It will be a chance for some talented freshman sprinters to get a first taste of collegiate competition before next weekend’s home meet in Purdue, while the Irish pole vault group will get a chance to measure themselves against the nation early in the season.
2002 Women’s Track and Field Season Preview:
The 2000-01 Notre Dame women’s track and field team emerged out onto the national scene last season. Led by All-American Liz Grow, the Irish sprint corps put the BIG EAST Conference and NCAA Championship field on notice by taking first in the 4×100 relay at the league championship and running consideration times in the 4×100 and 4×400 for an appearance at the NCAA meet.
Grow also became the first women’s sprint All-American, finishing eighth in the 400 meters at the NCAA indoor meet. Tameisha King and Jaime Volkmer flirted with NCAA consideration times or marks in their respective specialties.
All of these athletes will return in 2002 and with the addition of some talented freshmen, the Irish have their sights set on their first BIG EAST track and field title.
“Our women’s team has an opportunity to do some very good things this year,” Notre Dame head track and field coach Joe Piane says.
“All of our key performers return and we have a great group of incoming freshmen.”
Many of the skilled newcomers to the Irish roster will be part of the sprint group. That contingent of athletes is the first group in a breakdown of the 2002 Notre Dame women’s track and field team.
SPRINTS AND HURDLES:
Even though the Irish boast talent throughout the sprint group roster, Liz Grow emerges above them all as the leader of the team in 2002.
“Liz Grow will be the mainstay of the group this year,” sprint coach and University speed coach John Millar says.
“We are really counting on her this year and she will have the opportunity to find out what she can do individually.”
Grow has appeared at an NCAA championship meet each season she has competed at Notre Dame and took a big step forward with an All-American finish in the 400 meters at the end of the 2002 indoor campaign.
“Our first goal was to make the NCAAs,” Millar explains.
“Then to make the finals, then score points and really place high at the meet. She is right on pace for all her goals and is really gearing towards a high finish at the NCAA championship meet.”
Grow will not be alone in the sprint lane this year. Kymia Love, Ayesha Boyd and Kristen Dodd all have shown the ability to score important points at the BIG EAST meet. They will be joined by freshmen Tonya Cheatham, Tiffany Gunn, Tricia Floyd and Latasha Steele to make up one of the more talented and deep rosters in the conference.
“Kristen Dodd and Ayesha Boyd both had solid freshman seasons last year,” Millar says.
“With a year behind them they know where they are at and what they need to do. The success we had as a group last year will help them work toward what they can do individually. They afford us the luxury of range all across the sprints and that will help us in our training as well.”
Millar also believes that Love is on the verge of a break-out season in 2002.
“Kymia made some good progress last year,” Millar says.
“I am really expecting to see great things out of her. If we can keep her healthy, she is someone who can be right there with Liz Grow.”
The Irish sprint coach is excited about his incoming group of freshman sprinters as well.
“Some of our freshman should have a big impact,” Millar says.
“I am looking forward to see what Tonya Cheatham can do. She is a pure sprinter and should really help our 4×100 relay. Tiffany Gunn is a 400 hurdler, but she should make an impact on the 4×400 relay as well as helping with the hurdles. Those two should be able to step in right away and enable us not to have the same four people on both relays. Tricia Floyd also is a candidate for the 4×100 relay. She has the background and experience to run on our relay teams.
Latasha Steele is an unknown who has a lot of raw ability that has not been developed yet. I will be interested to see where she can fit in. I think she can be a very good 400 meter specialist, but she has some good times in the 100 and 200 as well.”
All the added depth in the sprint group has Millar smiling about the prospects of his relay teams. One of Notre Dame’s top goals in 2002 will be to get one of the relays to qualify for an NCAA championship meet.
“We finally established ourselves last season and with Grow as the backbone of the group, we have the opportunity to be even better,” Millar says.
“We have improved the depth of our group and I think that can really help in the relays. We will not have to depend on the same four people to run each (relay) and hopefully that will keep us away from any injuries and allow them to develop more specifically in their own areas.”
The Irish also have helped themselves in the hurdles. Tameisha King will combine with Gunn to give the team a solid one-two punch in the 110- and 400-meter hurdle events.
“We are expecting big things out of Tameisha this year – more so than ever,” Millar says.
“She has experienced two years of development and kind of slumped last year. That is expected sometimes when you have success in a freshman season. She seems to be very focused right now and we are looking at her to push past where she was last year.”
Millar is excited about Gunn as well. The rookie should be able to step right in and score points at the BIG EAST meet in the 400 hurdles and contribute in the 110 hurdles as well.
JUMPS AND THROWS:
Field events coach Scott Winsor knows that he has two very talented individuals to lead his jumps and group this season. Jaime Volkmer in the pole vault and Tameisha King in the long jump have shown the ability to compete at the national level.
“Jaime and Tameisha are the core of our jump group,” Winsor says.
“Jaime will tell you that she should be knocking on the door at the NCAAs. That is where we are looking. We want to make the NCAAs in the pole vault. She is more than capable of achieving that goal and has worked very hard all year long to get better. She also will triple jump for us at the conference level.”
The Notre Dame pole vault group has been one of the best in the conference over the last three seasons with Volkmer and Natalie Hallett.
“Natalie improved consistently last year,” Winsor says.
“She climbed up the ladder in the vault last season. With Natalie and Jaime, I don’t have to worry about their work ethic. They want to win and work as hard as possible to get where they want to go.”
Winsor knows that King, who finished as a freshman All-American two years ago, is anxious to put a disappointing 2001 campaign behind her.
“I know she did not accomplish what she wanted last year after being an All-American in the long jump as a freshman,” Winsor says.
“Now it is just a matter of evening out the time she spends in her events. She can be a very, very good long jumper. We are looking for her to be at both NCAA meets.”
Jennifer Kearney and freshman Katie Duman will be counted on to produce in their respective throw specialties.
“Jennifer came in and did a good job in the high jump last year,” Windsor says.
“She was very consistent. She just needed to adjust to Division I athletics. With a year under her belt – she has seen what it takes to compete at this level. We are really looking for some solid improvement for her.
Duman will be our best javelin thrower as a freshman. We should be able to get at least 10 more feet out of her throw. Once she gets some work in the weight room she will do well for us at the conference meet.”
Women’s distance coach Tim Connelly witnessed a transformation in his team last year. The group entered the season with little or no collegiate experience, but ended the 2001 slate on many a high note. Just a freshman last year, Megan Johnson broke the school record in the outdoor 1,500 meters and junior Jen Handley logged a second-place finish in the 5,000 meters at the BIG EAST meet.
“As the year went on a lot of our kids improved,” Connelly says.
“By the end of the outdoor season most of them had the experience and training they needed to help us in 2002.”
Junior Jen Fibuch came out of nowhere last season to be one of Notre Dame’s top distance threats. She ended up taking second place in the 5,000 meters at the Tom Botts Invitational during the outdoor season and moved up to 10th place in the 5,000 at the BIG EAST Championship.
“Jen Fibuch was right on the fringe throughout the cross country season,” Connelly says.
“By the end of the track and field season she had established herself as one of our top runners. We are expecting Johnson, Handley and Fibuch to do a lot for us.”
Freshman Lauren King also will be expected to contribute in her rookie season.
“I think Lauren can really come in and help us,” Connelly says.
“She was the Canadian Junior National 1,500-meter champion and finished 26th in the Canadian National Cross Country Championships. She is excited about getting the chance to come in and contribute right away.”