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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Track and Field puts on solid showing while hosting ACC Championship

Notre Dame’s Track and Field team hosted all 15 teams competing in the ACC Championships at the Loftus Sports Center over the weekend. The Irish finished strong, with the women’s team finishing in third and the men’s team in fourth.

Notre Dame senior Summer Thorpe competes in the Meyo Invitational on Feb. 8 at Loftus Sports Center in Notre Dame, IN.
Notre Dame senior Summer Thorpe competes in the Meyo Invitational on Feb. 8 at Loftus Sports Center in Notre Dame, IN.

Irish head coach Matt Sparks opened up about the outstanding performances that led to those team placements. 

“The one thing that stood out for me was women’s hurdles,” Sparks said. “[Senior] Naya Sharp and [senior] Summer Thorpe, the two that have been connected in a lot of ways throughout their four years here. They’re both seniors and they’ve trained together for four years. Summer has traditionally had the best of her, but it was interesting to see just how connected they are. In the prelims they ran the exact same time, 8.26 to make the final, and they ran the exact same time in the final.”  

“They’re always in workouts together,” Sparks continued. “Doing things together, always working together towards success, and to see them run identical times in the final — I mean, for Naya it was especially sweet because she had never made a conference final before or scored a point, so for her to go from there to winning a conference title and the emotion that she went through when she saw that she had won, and to see just how happy she was, really a big moment on the women’s side.”

The pair of hurdlers were not the only ones to shine on the women’s side this weekend. Sophomore Maddy Denner ran both the 5K and the 3K, placing 5th and 3rd respectively. 

“[Denner] raced the 5K on Friday night. She fell during that race, got up, got fifth place and then came back and ran even better. She not only recovered from her fall but came back the next day and exceeded a lot of expectations to finish at that all-conference spot,” Sparks said. 

The women tied their best finish in ACC history, but the success was spread between both squads. 

“On the men’s side,” Sparks said, “the big moment was [senior] Logan Kusky in the weight throw. He was the very last throw of the competition. He went from second to first on the last throw and held on. Obviously, he came back in the end to win when it mattered most. His back was against the wall and he did what he needed to do to put himself over the top.” 

Kusky earned himself first place in the men’s weight throw with a 20.75-meter final throw. There were other stellar performances as well. Junior Yared Nuguse ran a 4:02.59 in the mile prelims and a 3:55.62 in the final run, but according to Sparks, that was nothing. 

“The way Coach Carlson works with him is that they know he’s going to the national meet, so they spend the whole year saving his hard efforts for when they matter most,” Sparks said. “Having not competed in the mile all year, he ran the DMR twice before that open mile. He asked Coach Carlson, ‘Can I run hard today?’ and Carlson said ‘You can run the last lap hard’ so he still had more left in the tank. He ran well enough to put himself in the lead for the first three laps and just turned it on for the last lap.  He’s going to have to run a lot faster than what he ran for the open mile if they’re going to win the DMR. He’s going to have to find another gear. The whole purpose of the regular season with him has been to conserve his energy for the national meet. He still has a lot of gas in the tank. He ran fast on Saturday, but he didn’t run that hard. He’s still got more to go.”

Despite not being in top gear, Nuguse earned himself first place, as did junior Sam Voelz in the 800-meter run, which was a sort of secret, said Sparks. 

“I think the rest of the country sees now what the team has seen all year in practice. [Sam Voelz is] coming right alongside Yared [Nuguse], and he’s gotten a lot of confidence training alongside someone like that,” Nuguse said. “The entire mid-distance group has. Sam especially though has been doing that for the last couple months training that way now, but this is the first time we’ve really had him let loose in an open event. The rest of the conference knows he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with over the next few years now.”

Sophomore distance runner Matthew Carmody, who ran a very low time a few weeks back in the 5K, was also tested this week, and Sparks was hoping to see that speed make an appearance again this weekend. 

“[Carmody] went from the kid who was just barely making our top seven in cross country to one of the better guys in the conference, so he put a good time out there at Iowa State, but he proved it this weekend,” Sparks said. “He’s not a one-hit wonder, he was able to back up his big performance from two weeks ago and compete for a conference title. He was right there with Peter Seufer from Virginia Tech until the last 100 meters, and that’s one of the better runners in the country.”

With all of this success, Sparks acknowledged that his squads ran with the advantage of hosting, but the confidence they built here will be important in the rest of the postseason. 

The Irish compete again March 13 and 14 at the NCAA National Championship meet in Albuquerque, New Mexico.