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Niedermeyer posts impressive vault win

Former Badger Darren Niedermeyer added another line to his post-collegiate resume Saturday with an impressive win in the men's special pole vault at the Drake Relays.

Niedermeyer needed to clear just two bars to win, but it was the way he cleared them that led to the victory. He and runner-up Derek Miles -- the two-time defending Drake champion in the men's special vault -- both cleared 17-7 1/4 on their second attempt.

The key came on the next bar, the height that ended up as the winning clearance. Niedermeyer made it over on his first attempt, but it took Miles two tries to gain clearance. When neither could clear the next bar in the progression at 18-5 1/4, the win went to Niedermeyer on the criteria of misses.

It's a big victory for Niedermeyer considering some of Miles' credentials. Beyond being a three-time Drake champion, he was the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials champion and went on to finish fourth at the Olympics in Beijing. Plus, he owns an impressive lifetime-best clearance of 19-2 1/2.

"He's one of the guys you're always aiming to beat," Niedermeyer said of Miles. "So, it feels good to be able to get a victory today."

Double success in triple jump

Senior LaQuita Brazil posted a personal-best leap and sophomore Jordan Helgren put up her best mark of the season to grab a pair of top-10 finishes in the women's triple jump Saturday afternoon at the Drake Relays.

Brazil had the top mark in her flight with her lifetime-best effort of 40 feet, 7 3/4 inches, but she narrowly missed out on a spot in the finals. The performance moved her up to No. 8 on the Badgers' all-time list in the event.

Helgren did advance to the finals and posted her best attempt of the day on her third and final jump of the trials. She leapt a season-best 41-4 1/2, a mark she did not improve on in the finals, but one that was good enough for seventh place overall.

Freshman Andrea Geubell of Kansas had the winning mark with a leap of 43-11 1/4.

Larkin takes fifth in 110 hurdles

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Senior Nate Larkin wrapped up his collegiate Drake Relays career with a second-consecutive top-five finish in the men's 110-meter hurdles Saturday afternoon.

Larkin clocked a time of 14.24 despite running into a stiff headwind that registered at 2 meters per second. He was third at Drake last year, running his career-best time of 13.89 with a wind at his back.

Illinois sophomore Andrew Riley, who finished one spot ahead of Larkin as the runner-up last year, claimed the win in an impressive 13.72 despite the headwind. Kansas State junior Jeffrey Julmis was second in 13.76.

Women's hurdlers pick up pace

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Whether individually or as a team, Saturday afternoon went very well for Wisconsin's women's hurdlers.

The 4x100-meter shuttle hurdle relay team took a fourth-place finish in the event, as the quartet of sophomore Jessica Flax, senior Jenny Soceka, freshman Dorcas Akinniyi and junior Egle Staisiunaite ran a school-record time of 56.77 in the afternoon final.

The time was a drop of nearly a second off the previous record set by the foursome -- a 57.53 run at the Florida Relays on April 3.

Saturday's runs -- the prelims and the final -- represented just the third and fourth shuttle hurdle races in school history. Before they ran at the Florida Relays, Wisconsin's only previous run in the event was at the 2008 Sea Ray Relays.

Just 40 minutes anchoring the Badgers' effort in the relay, Staisiunaite returned to the track to run the 400-meter hurdles. She responded with an effort of 59.89 to finish 10th and clock the second sub-1:00 run of her career.

Sophomore teammate Jenna Severson was strong, too, running a personal-best 1:00.65 to finish 16th.

Badgers claim distance medley in school-record time

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Four outstanding carries carried the Badgers to a Drake Relays title in the distance medley relay Saturday, with UW clocking a school-record time in the process.

The foursome of senior Ryan Gasper, senior James Groce, junior Zach Beth and senior Craig Miller ran a time of 9:32.84 to claim the win in the Jim Wheelock Distance Medley Relay, with their mark ranking as the second-fastest DMR time in the nation this year.

The victory gave Wisconsin its first Drake title in the event since 1949. Miller and Beth both were part of the Badgers' win in the 4x800-meter relay at last year's Drake Relays.

After getting backed up into the pack more than he'd planned on the opening 1,200-meter leg, Gasper closed well to clock a split of 2:57 that ensured he would hand off to Groce ahead of the traffic jam that trailed.

Groce -- competing in his fourth relay of the weekend -- took the stick cleanly for the 400-meter leg and went on to lay down a blazing split of 45.8 seconds that put the Badgers out front.

Beth did his part to keep them there with his 800-meter leg, as he lapped the blue oval twice in the low-1:49 range to set up Miller's anchor leg.

The two made the final exchange in a dead heat with Baylor, but Miller pulled ahead and led nearly throughout his 1,600-meter carry.

He slipped to second only briefly when Iowa State's Brandon Rooney slipped around the outside as the two took the final curve with 200 meters to go.

The lead was short-lived for Rooney, however, as Miller stormed back to the front with a finishing kick that capped off a split in the 4:00-flat range to take the win.

It was Miller's second anchor carry of 4:01 or better in as many days, as he also brought home the Badgers' third-place finish in the 4x1600-meter relay Friday.

The Badgers' remaining slate on the track is senior Nate Larkin in the finals of the men's 110-meter hurdles at 3:13 p.m. and Rob Finnerty in the men's 1,500 meters at 5:18 p.m.

Taylor clears personal-best bar to take fifth

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True freshman Collin Taylor continued his strong rookie season for the Badgers at his first Drake Relays, as he took an impressive fifth-place finish in the men's high jump.

Taylor cleared a personal-best height of 6 feet, 11 3/4 inches to take fifth.

After getting over that career-best bar, Taylor took three shots at joining the 7-foot club and came up just short of clearing 7-1.

Ole Miss freshman Ricky Robertson took the win by clearing 7-3 1/4, with the other three competitors who finished ahead of Taylor all making it over at 7-2 1/4.

Photos: Drake Relays - Day 2

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Check back to the gallery linked below throughout the day for updated photos from day two of the 2010 Drake Relays.

Photo Gallery: 2010 Drake Relays - Day 2

Sprinters shine again in sprint medley relays

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After a disappointing start to the day at the Drake Relays, the Wisconsin men's team rebounded with a third-place finish in the sprint medley relay late Saturday morning.

The quartet of freshman Gavin Robertson (200 meters), junior Kyle Jefferson (200 meters), senior James Groce (400 meters) and junior Luke Rucks (800 meters) clocked the sixth-fastest time in school history, and the Badgers' best since 1982.

Eastern Illinois took the win in 3:16.89, with Iowa second in 3:17.74.

It was another strong showing for the Badgers' sprints program, which also claimed a runner-up finish in the 4x200-meter relay on Friday.
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On the women's side, the Badgers ran the third-fastest sprint medley in school history at 3:56.16. That clocking, from the foursome of freshman Jameice DeCoster, senior Alexis Beecham, freshman Brittney Harper and senior Amanda Donath, was good for a 10th-place finish.

Tulsa claimed the win in 3:47.44, with Ohio State second in 3:51.80.

The next action on the track for the Badgers is the finals of the women's shuttle hurdle relay, with the Badgers set to run at 12:56 p.m. UW also has LaQuita Brazil and Jordan Helgren competing in the women's triple jump at 12:30 p.m.

Ups and downs to open Saturday at Drake

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The Wisconsin men's track team won't have the opportunity to defend its Drake Relays title in the shuttle hurdle relay, but the Badger women are in position to make a run at their first crown.

The women's squad -- running just the third shuttle hurdle race in school history -- clocked a time of 58.85 to take second in their heat and earn the fourth and final qualifying spot for the final.

Sophomore Jessica Flax, senior Jenny Soceka, redshirt freshman Dorcas Akinniyi and junior Egle Staisiunaite will run the final at 12:56 p.m.

Louisiana Tech was fastest at 56.46, with Alabama (56.59) and Ohio State (58.10) also getting through to the final.

After a strong opening leg from sophomore Temi Ogunbodede, the defending champion Badger men seemed poised to cruise into the final. A clean exchange to sophomore Adam Hexum followed, but Hexum stumbled at the second hurdle and failed to clear the barrier.

Sophomores Adum Gross and David Grzesiak were left standing at the blocks without running their legs.

Kansas State ran the fastest prelims time at 58.92, with North Dakota State, Northern Iowa and Indiana State also making the final.

In terms of weather, things look much brighter for Des Moines today after a soggy, breezy Friday. Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s are expected at least through late afternoon, when strong storms may roll in.

Next up for UW is freshman Collin Taylor in the men's high jump at 10 a.m. On the track, the men's and women's sprint medley relay teams will run beginning at 10:15 a.m.

Men grab second in 4x200 to wrap day at Drake

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The Badger men's team put a cap on Wisconsin's day of competition at the Drake Relays with a runner-up finish in the 4x200-meter relay as part of the "Relays Under the Lights" session this evening.

Three-fourths of the squad that set a school record in the event three weeks ago at the Florida Relays hit the track again at Drake, with sophomore Grant Bughman joining record-holders Gavin Robertson, Kyle Jefferson and James Groce.

This quartet fell short of the record but posted the third-fastest time in school history at 1:24.48 on their way to runner-up honors. There was no catching Baylor -- always a force in the sprints at Drake -- as the Bears claimed the title in 1:21.64.

Big Ten rivals Illinois (1:25.21) and Ohio State (1:25.54) claimed the third and fourth spots.

The Badgers return to action for the final day of the Drake Relays beginning early Saturday, with the women's 4x100-meter shuttle hurdle relay on tap at 8:20 a.m. The men's shuttle hurdle relay -- in which the Badgers are defending champs -- follows at 8:43 a.m.

ON WISCONSIN