UW Health Sports Medicine 

Big Ten champs vault to No. 1 in national poll

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Just two days after proving themselves the class of the Big Ten for the 13th-consecutive season, the Badgers now find themselves atop the list of the nation's top teams, as well.

For the first time since 2007, the Wisconsin men's cross country team is ranked No. 1 in the USTFCCCA National Coaches Poll.

UW received seven of the possible 12 first-place votes to vault Oklahoma State for the top position in the latest poll, which was released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The Cowboys picked up the remaining five first-place votes and come in at No. 2.

BYU, Colorado and Oklahoma round out the top five.

"Of course it's an honor to be ranked No. 1 in the country, and I'm very happy for our athletes," said fourth-year UW head coach Mick Byrne. "But that does nothing to change the challenges ahead of us."

The move to No. 1 comes on the heels of the Badgers' dominant win Sunday at the 2011 Big Ten Championship, where UW used a team score of 17 points to claim its 13th-straight conference crown. Indiana, which finished runner-up to the Badgers at the Big Ten meet, follows No. 6 Stanford and checks in at No. 7 in the national poll.

Behind the Hoosiers, No. 8 Portland and a tie for No. 9 between Iona and Princeton round out the national top 10.

Byrne is pleased voters took notice of his team's performance at the conference meet, but he says the role of favorite for the upcoming NCAA championship hasn't changed.

"Oklahoma State is the two-time defending champion, returns everyone from last year and is the clear favorite for the NCAA meet," Byrne said. "They have looked fantastic this season and Girma Mecheso hasn't even competed yet. That's a guy that was seventh at the national meet last year.

"They are the team to beat."

Byrne was cautious to put much stock in rankings heading into the heart of championship season.

"Coach (Martin) Smith's teams often fly under the radar, but what Oklahoma did to compete with Oklahoma State at the Big 12 meet has them on my radar," Byrne said. "The same thing goes for Coach (Mark) Wetmore, because Colorado is always a team that shows up and performs on the day. You can count on it.

"Plus, we know that BYU and Stanford both have very talented teams and will be a factor when we get to Terre Haute."

For Wisconsin, the return to No. 1 marks UW's 22nd week as the nation's top-ranked team since 1998. Only Stanford, at 31, has been atop the USTFCCCA rankings more often than the Badgers.

Wisconsin, Stanford, Colorado and Arkansas are the only programs to be ranked in each of the 99 polls released since the start of the 1998 season.

ON WISCONSIN