Jan. 26, 2017
By Megan Golden
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The University of Notre Dame hits the road for its second trip of the season as it travels to Iowa to compete in the Black & Gold Premier on Friday and Saturday.
Coming off of a fourth-place finish on both the men’s and No. 10-ranked women’s sides, the Irish will look to bounce back against a competitive field. Notre Dame joins Illinois State, Tulsa, Iowa, Illinois (men’s team only), Wisconsin, Loyola and Minnesota (men’s team only) in Iowa City, Iowa.
WHAT: Black & Gold Premier
WHERE: University of Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa)
WHEN: Friday-Saturday, Jan. 27-28 at Noon ET
LIVE STREAM: hawkeyesports.com
Notre Dame senior Tommy Grant set a PR in the 200m (21.85) on Saturday at the Notre Dame Invitational, just months after transferring from the NAIA’s nearby Bethel College. Grant, who has been taking workouts slowly and easing his way into Division I competition, impressed his coaches with a personal best in just his third meet of the season.
Turner said Grant will face a competitive field of sprinters in the 60m and the 200m dash.
“He’s doing very well. I’m very happy with his progress,” Turner said. “He’s going to have to run his butt off if he’s going to finish in the top three in the 200m.”
Freshman Troy Pride Jr. and sophomore Zachary Zajdel will join Grant in the 60m and the 200m, and Zajdel also will race in the 4x400m relay.
Pride, who has been practicing with the football and track teams each week, has focused on finding a balance between the teams’ daily workouts. With the meet beginning on Friday, Pride will have one fewer day of training--and one extra day of track competition.
Five freshmen sprinters are scheduled to race in the women’s 60m dash, including Michaela Butler, Grace Cronin, Madysen Hunter, Jernaya Sharp and Summer Thorpe. The group has showed signs of talent throughout the season but is heading into the Black & Gold Premier with the goal of establishing consistency.
Butler and Hunter will each compete in the 200m, while Butler, Cronin, Hunter and Thorpe will race in the 4x400m relay.
“I told them with our schedule, ‘You’re going to be thrown in the fire.’ We don’t have a watered-down schedule, so they will be challenged every time we get on the track,” Turner said. “They’re very talented but they’re inconsistent right now. They haven’t mastered sprint technique and hurdle technique. They’ll get it once or twice, but it isn’t there like I like it.”
SKY’S THE LIMIT
Sophomore jumper Matthew Birzer’s overall performance as a walk-on last season entered him into the conference discussion and eventually a second-place finish in the high jump (2.16m) at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships.
So far this season, Birzer has not disappointed. He owns a PR of 2.17m in the high jump and has already jumped 2.15m at the Blue & Gold Invitational last month.
“He’s been a very pleasant surprise for us, scoring a lot of points,” Turner said. “He continues to improve. I hope he continues to jump and score really high and be All-ACC. He has tremendous upside.”
Notre Dame will race on a brand new 200m banked track, which was seen at the 2016 World Championships in Portland, Oregon. A banked track, which is fairly rare, allows runners to pick up more speed as it eliminates the drop in speed around the curves.
Irish head coach Alan Turner admitted that a huge reason behind the trip to Iowa is to lower his team’s times and to provide them with experience on a banked track. Turner added that all NCAA Championships are run on a banked track.
“We’re going for the track, to try to put some fast marks up,” Turner said. “The level of competition is almost secondary in this meet. Getting in that facility was the main point of it.”
Fans are encouraged to watch the action LIVE at hawkeyesports.com or follow the live results feed at hawkeyesports.com/tracklive. For a closer, behind-the-scenes look at the Fighting Irish track and field program, follow @NDXCTF on Twitter.
Megan Golden, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since August of 2016. In her role, she coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women's lacrosse and cross country/track and field programs. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Golden is a 2014 graduate of Saint Mary's College and former Irish women’s basketball manager. Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, she worked in public relations with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.