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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Irish battle weather in Tennessee and Mississippi, prepare for weekend meets

The Irish faced some difficult weather this past weekend at the Tennessee Relays in Knoxville and the Joe Walker Invite in Oxford, Mississippi, but they had some strong performances nevertheless.

One of the top performers of the weekend came from freshman Alaina Brady in the heptathlon. Brady took home second in the event, scoring 5,573 points. That point total puts Brady third on the all-time list at Notre Dame and also currently gives her the eighth best time in the country.

Head coach Matt Sparks was ecstatic about Brady’s performance, which should put her in a great position to qualify for the national meet with the top 24 best marks in the country qualifying for the meet.

“That performance put her firmly on the bubble to qualify for the national meet in the multi,” Sparks said.

Brady will be competing in the multi again this week with the hope of further improving her position in the national standings.

“She’s going to California to compete in the Mt. Sac Relays and do the multi again this week,” Sparks said.

While Brady competed Thursday and Friday when the weather was better, the weather turned for the worse in Knoxville as the weekend went on, making it difficult for athletes to get good marks and times.

“It was snowing at times down there. It was really windy,” Sparks said. “It was what you might call a character building meet. You have to go out there and compete no matter what the conditions are, don’t worry about your time and just try to beat people.”

Graduate student thrower Rachel Tanczos had a strong performance as well, placing fourth in the discus throw with a throw of 48.32m and fifth in the hammer throw with a throw of 60.12m.

Sparks was pleased with the improvements he is seeing from Tanczos.

“Rachel Tanczos still keeps getting a little bit better,” Sparks said. “She had a slow start to the outdoor season much like she had a slow start to the indoor season. She ended the indoor season on a good note, so we hope she continues to make big steps every week.”

Other notable marks from the Tennessee Relays came in the javelin throw with senior Gabe Diederich taking second with a toss of 45.58m. On the men’s side, juniors John Keenan and Austin Parsons took third and fourth in the javelin with throws of 64.16m and 64.01m, respectively.

At the Joe Walker Invite in Oxford, the conditions weren’t much better, making it difficult for the women’s distance runners to record good times.

Sparks discussed what he saw from junior Olivia Markezich, who competed for the first time this outdoor season at Oxford.

“She was a little bit off, which is why we wanted to get her started in an event that wasn’t her marquee thing with the steeplechase being her main event for the year, and she will race that in two weeks," Sparks said. “It was just a starting point. She has trained well and she has looked strong in practice. We just had to break the outdoor track rust off, and she will be ready to go in two weeks when we put her in the steeplechase.”

This weekend, the team will return to action with three separate meets. The men’s distance team will head out to California to compete in the Mt. Sac Relays and Bryan Clay Invite, and the majority of the remaining team will compete in the Louisville Invite.

Although the majority of the men’s distance team will be racing, graduate student Yared Nuguse will take this weekend off to prepare for the long outdoor season ahead.

“Yared still won’t race,” Sparks said. “We are anticipating a big outdoor track season from him. He’s training really well. As a result of that, he is not going to race for a while because we feel like he will be racing in June and July.”

The men will race everything from the 800m to the 10,000m in California, and Sparks is hoping his team can replicate their success from the indoor regular season.

“We had some strong performances during the indoor season and then some guys struggled at the national meet,” Sparks said.

The main reason the men are traveling out to California is to get qualifying times for the regional meet at a race with nice conditions.

Sparks hopes that seniors Dylan Jacobs and Matthew Carmondy among others can get regional qualifying times.

“Dylan Jacobs had a great regular season, and Matthew Carmody had a great conference meet to run for the win there,” Sparks said. “I would love to see those guys pick up where they left off for the most part and get their national qualifying marks out of the way in California. That’s why they are both going out there to make sure they don’t have to deal with the wind and the rain.”

Sparks acknowledged that the men’s distance team has not raced much this year in order to target this meet and get a qualifying time early in the season.

“They have sat out a couple of meets in lieu of going to this one big meet,” Sparks said. “We would like to knock out as many regional qualifying marks as we can this weekend in California.”

The Mt. Sac Relays will run from April 13-16, the Bryan Clay Invite will run from April 13-15 and the Louisville Invite will run from April 15-16.