Weekend a big one for Badger alums, too

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As usual, the Wisconsin men's track and field team has had the first weekend in May circled on its calendar since the outdoor season began.

That's because the annual trip to Palo Alto, Calif., for the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational usually brings out the best in the Badgers.

Last year in Palo Alto, then-juniors Jack Bolas and Craig Miller recorded the third- and fifth-fastest 1,500 meters times in school history. Bolas' 3:37.64 ranked No. 4 in the nation last year, while Miller's 3:37.81 was No. 5 on the NCAA list.

Miller and Bolas seek similar success on Saturday, but this year's running of the Payton Jordan Invitational is a big one for some former Badgers, too.

The entries for the elite men's 10,000 meters field promise the type of race that distance running fans dream of.

The start list is a who's who of distance royalty, with three former Badgers right in the mix. Simon Bairu, Chris Solinsky and Tim Nelson -- a member of Team USA for the 10K at the 2009 World Championships -- are each entered.

Bairu_Simon_Payton_Jordan_09.jpgBairu, last year's runner-up, says he will take a shot at the Canadian record in the event, which stands at 27:36.

That's the time Nelson recorded to take the win in last year's race, as he finished 14 seconds ahead of his Oregon Track Club teammate. Nelson's time of 27:36.99 was good for the No. 2 American mark in 2009.

Solinsky, known mostly as a 3,000 and 5,000 meters specialist, did not finish at last year's Payton Jordan Invitational in his first 10,000-meter race. The 2009 World Championships qualifier will make his outdoor season debut by taking a second crack at the 10K on Saturday.

Nelson is coming off a runner-up finish at the 2010 USA 15K Championships in March, while Bairu scored an extremely-impressive 13th-place finish at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland on March 29.

Solinsky's indoor season included a third-place finish in the 3,000 meters at the U.S. indoor championships in February.

From collegiate record-holder Sam Chelanga of Liberty to Irish Olympian Alistair Cragg to seven-time NCAA champion Galen Rupp, the field the trio faces Saturday is nothing short of outstanding.

All this on the track where Meb Keflezighi set the American 10K record of 27:33.98 in 2001.

Also running Saturday is a new teammate of the former Badger trio, Shalane Flanagan, who also is training under former UW coach Jerry Schumacher. Flanagan set the American record in the women's 10K two years ago at Stanford before breaking her own mark a three months later at the Olympics in Beijing.
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