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Meyo Invitational Set For This Weekend

Feb 3, 2012, 11:19 AM EDT

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This weekend at the Loftus Sports Center, the Notre Dame track & field team will host the 25th annual Meyo Invitational. The Meyo Invitational is known around the country as one of the premier track meets of the indoor season, and this year is no exception.

The meet kicks off today with the long jump at 4 pm, before the 60m hurdlers hit the track at 5 pm. Other highlights from tonight’s competition include the 5,000m, distance medley relay, men’s pole vault and women’s high jump.

The action resumes at 10 am on Saturday morning, beginning with the 3,000m run. The women’s triple jump is the first field event for Day 2, and it is scheduled to begin at 11 am.

There will be countless exciting races throughout the weekend, but the meet’s biggest draws are a pair of distance events on Saturday afternoon – the Meyo Mile and the Ryan Shay men’s 3,000m run.

If you can only make it to a couple of events, these are the two to watch, as each attracts some of the nation’s best collegiate distance runners. Head on over to Loftus right after the conclusion of the men’s basketball game against Marquette to catch the mile at 3 pm, and stick around for the 3,000m at 4:25 pm.

Three Notre Dame runners – J.P. Malette, Jeremy Rae and Jordan Carlson – highlight the field in the men’s Meyo event, which also includes competitors from Arkansas, Iowa, Windsor (ON), Butler, Tulsa, Michigan State and Kent State.

The women’s race features Notre Dame’s Alexa Aragon and Kelly Curran, as well as 13 other runners from schools across the Midwest.

The four-minute mile was once thought to be an unattainable mark, until 1954, when England’s Roger Bannister became the first to break the barrier. While the sub-four minute mile is not held on the same pedestal that it once was, it is nevertheless, an outstanding accomplishment for any runner and for running fans, there are few things more exciting than seeing a sub-four mile in person.

If past history is any indication, don’t be surprised to see one or more runners achieve this feat on Saturday.

One of the most memorable races in recent history came in 2003, when Notre Dame’s Luke Watson won the Meyo Mile in a school-record time of 3:57.83. Watson’s victory highlighted an event in which the top five runners all finished under four minutes.

Two years later, four runners broke the four-minute mark, including two Notre Dame athletes, sophomore Kurt Benninger, and Watson, running as an unattached competitor.

At last year’s meet, Rae, then a sophomore, won the Meyo Mile in 3:59.62. Michigan’s Kevin Sullivan holds the meet record, an impressive 3:55.90 mark set in 1995.

Ten years after Sullivan’s record-breaking performance, Lindsey Gallo, also a Michigan Wolverine, ran a 4:37.97 in the women’s Meyo Mile.

The other main event is named in honor of 2001 Notre Dame graduate Ryan Shay, who tragically passed away in 2007 following a massive heart attack while running the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in New York City.

Shay is the most decorated athlete in Notre Dame track & field history. In addition to his 2001 NCAA title in the 10,000m, Shay was a nine-time All-American and nine-time BIG EAST champion.

Last year, Terefe Ejigu of Eastern Michigan won the 3,000m race (equivalent to 1.86 miles) in 8:08.58. The junior will look to defend his title on Saturday at 4:25 pm against 24 other runners, including Notre Dame’s Joe Miller and Kelly Lynch.

Of course, there will be no shortage of excitement in the various sprint events either, and those events may be even more compelling if you are also a Notre Dame football fan.

After competing in last weekend’s Indiana Relays, sophomore Bennett Jackson and freshmen Josh Atkinson and George Atkinson III will each make their first home appearance on the track squad. Jackson will run in heat 6 of the 60m hurdles, which begin at approximately 5:25 pm this evening.

All three will compete in the 60m dash at 6:10 pm today. Josh Atkinson is set for heat 1, while his brother George will be in heat 3. Jackson is scheduled for heat 6.

The Atkinson brothers will also hit the track tomorrow at 2:05 pm for the 200m dash. Look for Josh in section 6 and George in section 8.

To fans of traditional team sports, track & field might not seem like the most exciting spectator activity. However, the Meyo Invitational attracts some of the sport’s best talent from around the country, and I can promise you that if you are in the South Bend area this weekend, the trip to Loftus Center will be well worth it.

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