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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

Track and field wins multiple events at Texas Relays and Pacesetter Sports Invitational

The Notre Dame track and field team was back in action this weekend, competing at two different meets. The heptathlon athletes competed in the Texas Relays at the University of Texas at Austin, while the throwers and distance runners competed at the Pacesetter Sports Invitational at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.

The reigning indoor heptathlon national champion, sophomore Jadin O’Brien, took first in Texas, setting a new personal best of 5,942 points. Her finish this weekend places her first in the country in heptathlon for the outdoor track season.

Sophomore Alaina Brady also competed in the heptathlon, finishing in sixth place with a new personal record of 5,650 points.

Head coach Matt Sparks was excited that O’Brien got another win, but he was also very encouraged by Brady’s performance.

“The added events I think give [Brady] a little bit of a boost over some of the other national-level people,” Sparks said.

Sparks thinks Brady is in a great position to make the national meet by the end of the season.

“It’s probably 50-50 if that mark gets her into the national meet. She will obviously have the conference meet and maybe a regular season meet to improve,” Sparks said. “That’s a really good start for her to put her on a national platform, which is something she’s been working towards the last couple of years. She’s been on the outside looking in, but she’s much closer to getting into the national meet.”

In Terre Haute, junior Michael Shoaf won the shot put event with a mark of 19.01m, which will secure his spot in the regional meet.

“Shoaf stepped up and won the shot put event.” Sparks said. “He’s firmly in the regional meet, so the rest of the regular season is setting himself up for the regional and conference meet.”

Shoaf went to the national outdoor meet last year and competed at the national indoor meet this year. Sparks hopes he can take the next step at this year’s national meet.

“The next step for [Shoaf] is to not just make the national meet, but to get to the national meet and find a way to score,” Sparks said. “We are trying to get him to compete at a more elite level once he makes the national meet and not be satisfied and content that he made it there. I think he has gotten to that point now. Now he needs to go there and make an impact on the competition.”

Sparks discussed how O’Brien and Shoaf have acted as leaders for the women’s and men’s teams, respectively.

“When you continually win and find ways to get the job done, the rest of the team sees that and recognizes that. With Jadin [O'Brien], I think that’s recognized across the board, especially with our women’s team,” Sparks said. “And we need Michael [Shoaf] to continue to step up and find ways to win. He’s doing that more and more often week after week here.”

Sparks also described sophomore distance runner Carter Solomon as a leader for the team.

“Carter Solomon is another guy who can usually find ways to win,” Sparks said. “Whether that’s the conference meet or a smaller meet, he finds ways to get better every time out and that’s contagious.”

Graduate student John Keenan also won the javelin throw in Terre Haute with a mark of 60.48m. Sparks hopes Keenan can push for a qualification in the national meet this year.

“He competed for us for four years and came back for grad school,” Sparks said of Keenan. “He’s been an all-conference javelin thrower for us a couple of years ago, and we are hoping to find that magic again and make an impact at the regional meet and make a run at a national qualifier in that event.”

On the track, sophomores Paige and Molly Grant went one-two in the 1500m run with times of 4:32.53 and 4:33.26, respectively. Junior Catherine Coffey also won the 800m run with a time of 2:15.89.

Sparks hopes those three athletes gain confidence from their victories, especially with stiffer competition coming down the road.

“For each of them, it was a big step in the right direction for them. It’s always nice to get a win,” Sparks said. “For a lot of the group that competed here, they got some confidence from winning or finishing in the top half of their event. We will get into some tougher competitions here at the end of April, which will hopefully push them towards some personal bests as we approach the conference meet.”

The Irish will be in action next weekend at the Jack Shaw Invite at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with the sprinters and jumpers competing.