By Ryan Gray
Arizona Daily Wildcat
St. Patrick's Day will come three weeks early for five members of the UA track and field team, as they travel this weekend to the Notre Dame Alex Wilson Indoor Invitational.
The Wildcats will be surrounded by the Irish Ä the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Coach Dave Murray is taking Karen Bennett, Luther Kopf, Dexter Russel, Timur Voitetsky and Bob Keino to South Bend, Indiana, in hopes that they will qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships, held March 10-11 in Indianapolis.
The meet, which will be held at the Lostus Center, is the last chance for athletes to qualify for the NCAAs.
Bennett, last season's NCAA runner-up in the 800 meters, has yet to qualify because of a mishap last week at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championships in Reno, Nev. The All-American committed a freshman mistake Ä she failed to keep track of the lap count.
"Karen miscounted the laps with one lap to go," Murray said. "She was expecting to put it in another gear (for the last lap) and everyone stopped.
"It's hard to understand, but those things happen."
Bennett went on to finish third in a race she could have won, without an NCAA qualifying time.
Murray said she is "very capable" of achieving the automatic time of 2:06.70.
"I think she'll run under the automatic, myself," he said
In addition to Bennett, the UA men's distance medley team will also be searching for an NCAA magic number.
Kopf (880-yard leg), Russel (440), Voitetsky (1320) and Keino (mile) will try to post one of the nation's 10 fastest times. The team must better the mark of 9:36.50 in order to qualify.
"They'll be under 9:40, I think," Murray said.
The quintuplet hopes to join fellow Wildcats Viola Shaffer and Suzanne Castruita (5000), and David Loshonkohl (35-pound weight throw), who have already set NCAA provisional marks.
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