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2013 Big Ten Indoor Championships - Day 2 Updates

Follow along for regular updates throughout the final day of competition at the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Championships, live from the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. Brian Mason of UW Athletic Communications will offer updates during both days of competition while also taking your comments and questions.

- Men's Preview  |  Women's Preview  |  Live Results

Big Ten Indoor Track & Field - Day 1 Updates

Follow along for regular updates throughout the first day of competition at the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Championships, live from the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. Brian Mason of UW Athletic Communications will offer updates during both days of competition while also taking your comments and questions.

- Men's Preview  |  Women's Preview  |  Live Results

What to Watch For: Olympic Trials Day 5

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The 2012 USA Olympic Trials resume Thursday in Eugene, Ore., with the biggest day of competition yet for those with ties to the Wisconsin men's and women's track programs.

A total of seven Badgers -- either current or former -- are set to compete inside Hayward Field when the Trials resume at 5:50 p.m. (CT). Here's a quick rundown on what to watch for.

Keep in mind that tonight's live television window runs from 8-10 p.m. on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus).

Men's 1500 Meters - Qualifying - 6:20 p.m.
- Top six per heat, plus next six fastest times, advance to Friday semifinals
- Rob Finnerty (Wisconsin), Jack Bolas (New Balance), Craig Miller (New Balance)

Finnerty has been riding a hot streak since breaking out by winning the 1500 meters at the NCAA West Preliminary Round in late May. He followed that with a fifth-place finish and All-America honors in the event at the NCAA outdoor championships.

It took an eleventh-hour run (literally) for Finnerty to make the Trials, however, as he clocked in at a personal-best 3:38.60 to achieve the automatic qualifying standard at a special race in Bloomington, Ind., just hours before the qualification deadline closed on June 10. Finnerty runs in the third of three preliminary-round heats.

Bolas and Miller, both 2010 graduates of UW, continue as teammates for New Balance and will race together in the first heat of the preliminary round.

In his second Olympic Trials appearance -- he also qualified in 2008 -- Bolas enters as the No. 10 seed for the competition at 3:36.33. Miller will make his debut at the Trials as the No. 12 seed with a personal-best time of 3:36.35.

Women's High Jump - Qualifying - 7 p.m.
- Top 12 advance to final
- Megan Seidl (Wisconsin Runner Racing Team)

Megan Seidl, a 2010 UW graduate, makes her third-consecutive appearance at a U.S. championship meet, entering the high jump prelims tied for the No. 9 seed with her personal-best clearance of 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches.

The 2008 Big Ten outdoor champion, Seidl was a two-time NCAA championships qualifier for the Badgers as a senior in 2010. That year, she went on to finish seventh at the U.S. championships in Des Moines. Seidl finished 14th in last year's U.S. meet in Eugene.

Seidl's best finish in a national meet came when she tied for third at the 2011 USA Indoor Championships.

Men's Pole Vault - Final - 7:05 p.m.

- Top 3 eligible for U.S. national team
- Darren Niedermeyer (Jump High Athletic Club)

Darren Niedermeyer survived and advanced through a brutal qualifying round in the pole vault Monday, tying for sixth to advance as one of 11 qualifiers for the final.

In chilly, damp conditions, the 2005 UW graduate managed to clear 17 feet, 4 1/2 inches on his third and final attempt at the height -- which proved to be the cutoff for advancement to the final.

Niedermeyer was the last man to make the trials field, entering tied for the No. 23 seed at 18-1.

He owns a lifetime-best clearance of 18-9, which he would have to top in order to make Team USA even with a top-three finish. The "A" qualifying standard for the London Olympics is 18-9 1/4.

Niedermeyer won the 2004 indoor and 2005 outdoor Big Ten pole vault titles for the Badgers, and his most recent major success came when he won the 2010 Drake Relays title in the pole vault by upsetting 2008 Olympic Trials winner Derek Miles, who also is in Thursday's final.

Women's Shot Put - Qualifying - 7:40 p.m.
- Top 12 advance to Friday final
- Kelsey Card (Wisconsin)

Kelsey Card looks to extend her tremendous rookie season another day as she competes in the qualifying round of the women's shot put.

Card actually competed in the discus at the NCAA outdoor championships earlier this month, but her All-America effort in the shot put from the indoor season is what qualified her for the Olympic Trials.

Her school-record throw of 55-8 1/2 has Card tied for the No. 19 seed entering Thursday's qualifying round. She will look to improve that standing in order to advance, as the top 12 finishers in the 23-woman field will move on to Friday's final.

Card is no stranger to competing on the national stage at Hayward Field. She won the national junior title in the shot put at the 2011 USA Junior Championships at Hayward on her way to claiming bronze for Team USA at the 2011 Pan Am Junior Championships.

Men's 3000 Steeplechase - Final - 8:30 p.m.
- Top 3 eligible for U.S. national team
- Evan Jager (Oregon Track Club Elite)

Evan Jager has quickly gone from steeplechase novice to a popular pick for Team USA in the event. He'll get the chance to live up to that hype in the final of the event Thursday.

In his first season competing in the steeple, Jager entered the Olympic Trials seeded No. 9 with his personal-best time of 8:20.90. He easily advanced out of the qualifying round Monday by winning his section in 8:30.60.

Jager competed just one season in Madison, earning All-America honors with an eighth-place finish in the 1500 meters at the NCAA outdoor championships and then finishing eighth in the 1500 at the 2008 IAAF World Junior Championships.

Shortly after, he followed former Badgers Chris Solinsky and Matt Tegenkamp in moving west to train under former UW assistant coach Jerry Schumacher as part of Oregon Track Club Elite in Portland. The move paid immediately dividends for Jager, who made it an all-Badgers trio representing Team USA in the 5000 meters at the 2009 IAAF World Championships.

NCAA Outdoor Championships Updates - Day 2


- Live Results  |  @Badger_Track  |  ESPN3 Webcast (5:15pm)

10:50 a.m.
Badgers' multi-event entries multiply
It's a busy day for Wisconsin's multi-event groups as the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships continue Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.

Senior David Grzeisak and sophomore Japheth Cato look to carry some momentum over from a strong first day of competition in the decathlon when the final five events begin at 11:30 a.m. (CT) with the 110 hurdles.

Cato enters the day 10th in the standings at 3,920 points, while Grzesiak is 11th at 3,914.

On the women's side, UW's trio of senior Jessica Flax, junior Dorcas Akinniyi and sophomore Deanna Latham open the heptathlon with the 100 hurdles at 1 p.m. They make Wisconsin the first program to advance three athletes to the NCAA championships in the heptathlon since 2001.

Also Thursday, junior Rob Finnerty runs as the top seed in the semifinals of the men's 1500 meters at 6:15 p.m., while junior Caitlin Comfort also makes her NCAA championships debut in the women's 10,000 meters at 8:45 p.m.

 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships
 Date  Wednesday-Saturday, June 6-9
 Location  Des Moines, Iowa  |  Drake Stadium
 Meet Information
 Meet Information  |  Meet Schedule Get         Acrobat Reader
 Tickets  Single Session  |  All-Session  |  (515) 271-3647
 Start Lists
 Men  |  Women
 Event Brackets  Championship Brackets Get         Acrobat Reader
 Television  ESPNU - Saturday, 11 a.m.
 (Trey Bender, Larry Rawson, Jill Montgomery)
 Live Webcast
 Thursday  Small Video Graphic  |  Friday  Small Video Graphic  |  Saturday Small Video Graphic
 Live Coverage  Live Results  |  @Badger_Track Twitter  |  #NCAAD1
 USTFCCCA National Rankings  |  Regional Team Index
 Performance Lists  NCAA  |  West Region  |  Big Ten  |  Wisconsin Get         Acrobat Reader

NCAA West Preliminary Round Updates: Saturday


- Results  |  Results Get    Acrobat  Reader   |  Photo Gallery

12:24 a.m.
'Real world' will have to wait for Helgren
Jordan Helgren's summer schedule suddenly looks a little different.

Just a week removed from receiving her diploma, the retailing major is set to begin a summer internship in Milwaukee this week.

Turns out she'll already be asking for some time off.

Thanks to her best effort in more than three years, the senior earned her first-ever NCAA championships berth with a 12th-place finish in the triple jump Saturday at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round.

Her season-best leap of 41 feet, 8 1/2 inches came on her first attempt of the competition. The mark, Helgren's best since a wind-aided 42-0 1/2 performance in 2009, stood up through an additional five rounds of jumps to earn her the NCAA berth that comes along with a top-12 finish.

"It was my first jump and usually that's my best one," Helgren said. "The one-and-done thing really has a meaning for me. It felt so good to hit that first one and give me some confidence. 

"I'm just glad my number stayed up there."

The performance continued a late-season surge for Helgren, who's battled a nagging foot injury and even tweaked her jumping style during the season to compensate. An eighth-place showing at the Big Ten championships two weeks ago broke her string of five consecutive top-five finishes in conference competition.

"A month ago, I was in a rut, struggling, and I couldn't get out," Helgren said. "I switched legs in the triple jump halfway through the outdoor season and was really having a hard time, until Big Tens came. I switched back to the other leg and things went so much better. 

"I'm not complaining about how things turned out."

Now, Helgren will be looking to clear her calendar June 6-9 for a trip to Des Moines, Iowa.

"This is absolutely incredible," Helgren said. "I coudln't wish for anything else. It's the cherry on top of my entire athletic career."

12:02 a.m.
Ahmed takes step toward goal
It's understandable that Mohammed Ahmed's first move would be to the front. After all, that's where the Wisconsin junior spends most of his time.

It took a reminder from his coach that there was no need to do the heavy lifting in race that required only a top-12 finish in order to be considered a winner.

Assistant coach Mick Byrne's message was received, as Ahmed settled in and secured a third-place finish in his heat in 14 minutes, 7.45 seconds to secure a return trip to the NCAA outdoor championships.

Teammates Dan Chenoweth (14:19.32) and Maverick Darling (14:30.35) finished 15th and 17th overall, respectively.

"He said to relax," Ahmed said of Byrne's message. "I heard him on the frontstretch. He said, 'Relax, relax,' and I knew I didn't need to lead. So I just relaxed and let someone else lead and Cam Levins (of Southern Utah) was willing to do it.

"Whenever I could stretch it out a little bit, I pushed it, but it was a slow race and I was just waiting for that big move."

Ahmed covered the change in pace late in the race and finished on the heels of fellow Canadian Levins and runner-up Chris Kwiatkowski of Oregon.

"Just staying on my feet was the No. 1 thing in my head," Ahmed said. "I almost went down somewhere in the middle of the race. Just hold your position and don't let people push you around, don't fall and get ready for that move. That's what I was keeping alert for."

Now he turns his attention to achieving one of the few goals he's yet to fulfill as a Badger: winning an individual national title.

"I'm going to go out there and enjoy it," Ahmed said of the national meet. "It's a great experience, always fun, but I'm toward the end of my collegiate career and I came here to win an NCAA title.

"There's really good runners out there, but that's what I'm here for and that's what everyone races for, to win. I'm going to go out there, compete and give myself the best shot I have to win."

8:50 p.m.
Finnerty fine in impressive 1500 meters win
Someone who has been left on the outside looking in each of the last two seasons, Rob Finnerty enjoyed the best view in the house Saturday.

The Wisconsin junior left the disappointment of years past -- as well as the competition -- in his dust with an impressive win in the quarterfinals of the 1500 meters at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round.

Finnerty kicked down Arizona's Lawi Lalang over the final 100 meters to close out a run of 3:42.93, emerging as the top qualifier from the West Region for the upcoming NCAA outdoor championships.

It's the first national meet berth for Finnerty, who was 13th two years ago when the preliminary round competition was last held in Austin, Texas. The top 12 finishers advanced to the NCAA championships.

Last year, Finnerty endured another close call with a 15th-place finish in the opening-round meet.

"I think a big part of this meet is that, the last two years, I've been one of the first guys out," Finnerty said. "This time around, I just told myself that I'm going to run my own race and not screw around for 1200 meters and then try to kick.

"I've gained the confidence that I can win running races how I want to race them, rather than running somebody else's race."

Just as he did in the first round Thursday, Finnerty helped set the tone for the race -- rather than allowing himself to be dictated by it. He led early before tucking in behind Lalang and allowing him to break the stiff breeze blowing down the back straightaway.

Then, when the moment was right, he put his strength on display by running down Lalang to win the heat.

"I feel like I've got a good hold on what you need to do out front and then kick off of that," Finnerty said of his confidence in running up front. 

"I think a lot of these guys are guys that have gotten into the 1500 because they have this great change of gears," he added. "Not in a bad way, but I think I've been pigeonholed into this event because we've got a team of 5K and 10K guys and we need somebody in the 1500.

"I think I've just had to develop my own style of racing because of that."

Qualifying for the NCAA championships is always in style, and it's something Finnerty has been striving for since joining the Badgers as a heralded high school miler.

Now, after putting together strong performances in back-to-back races, Finnerty has eyes on doing more than just showing up in Des Moines.

"I think heading into NCAAs," he said, "this is going to give me a lot of confidence going forward."

3:50 p.m.
Margin slim, but reward great for Badgers' Block
For all intents in purposes, there is no difference between finishing first and finishing 12th at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round.

There are no trophies for the winners, who instead enjoy the same reward as everyone else among the top dozen finishers -- an opportunity to compete for hardware in two weeks at the NCAA outdoor championships.

That's why Wisconsin's Dan Block walked away a winner Saturday after scoring a 12th-place finish in the men's discus. Thanks to the razor-thin margin by which he earned his first NCAA championships trip, however, Block celebrated simply by exhaling.

The sophomore posted a mark of 185 feet, 11 inches on his second-to-last throw, jumping Iowa's Gabe Hull for the final qualifying spot by just two centimeters. 

"It wasn't a good feeling. I wish I would have just thrown farther, but I'll take it," Block said. "All week going into the meet I said I didn't care if I got 12th or first, but it would have been nice to be first and not have to worry about it."

Block and Hull's marks were so close that, when converted from their metric measurements, both equated to 185-11.

"Two centimeters," Block said. "Gabe Hull is a true freshman out of Iowa and he really stepped up."

Block was well aware of the distance from the 13th position he occupied after four rounds of throws and where Hull stood in 12th.

"I was aware, I just didn't want to think about it because it was making me too nervous," Block said. "This is more nervous than I've ever been, and I've been in some pretty big meets."

In addition to his own anxiety, another day of windy conditions inside Mike A. Myers Stadium was something Block -- and his competition -- had to contend with. Much as it did in the women's competition Friday, a stiff breeze blew straight down the throwing sector and into the  competitors' faces.

"If you ask an excellent discus thrower they're going to say that's a great wind," Block said. "But I think the way it comes off the end of the stadium, it gets really strong up high.

"If you put (the disc) up high, it's just going to push it right back."

That was the case with redshirt freshman Alex Thompson's three attempts in his flight of the trials. Thompson finished 31st overall at 169-1.

That the Big Ten champion could throw just short of 186 feet and barely make the cut spoke to the quality of the competition at the West Region's preliminary-round site. Had he been competing at the East Region site in Jacksonville, Fla., Block's mark of 185-11 would have been good for fourth place.

"It was pretty incredible," Block said. "Everybody showed up today."

NCAA West Preliminary Round Updates: Friday


We're back with updates throughout the second day of the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round in Austin, Texas, as the Badgers chase the opportunity to advance to next month's NCAA outdoor championships.

 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships West Preliminary Round
 Date  Thursday-Saturday, May 24-26
 Location  Austin, Texas  |  Mike A. Myers Track & Soccer Stadium
 Meet Information
 Preliminary Round Information  |  Schedule Get         Acrobat Reader
 Start Lists
 Men  |  Women
 Event Brackets  Championship Brackets Get         Acrobat Reader
 Live Webcast
 Thursday  Small Video Graphic  |  Friday  Small Video Graphic  |  Saturday Small Video Graphic
 Live Coverage  Live Results  |  @Badger_Track Twitter  |  #NCAAD1W
 USTFCCCA National Rankings  |  Regional Team Index
 Performance Lists  National  |  West Region  |  Big Ten  |  Wisconsin Get         Acrobat Reader

10:20 p.m.
Freshman Mudd marches on, secures second NCAA berth
Austin Mudd didn't have to beat them in order to join them.

The Wisconsin freshman executed a strong race in the quarterfinals of the men's 800 meters at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round, hitching himself to UC Irvine's Charles Jock and UC Santa Barbara's Ryan Martin and letting the national leaders guide him to an NCAA championships berth.

Mudd ran third throughout the two-lap race, exactly where he needed to be to secure one of the three automatic qualifying spots for next month's national meet.

"Jock and Martin were in front of me the whole time and I was keying off them," Mudd said. "I was just trying to stay a few meters back from them and then kick it in and close the gap a little at the finish line.

"It was pretty much a given that they were going to go 1 and 2, so I just had to stay in contact with them and not let anyone pass me on that last stretch."

His close over the final 100 meters resulted in a time of 1:48.32 and assured him of a second NCAA championships berth in his rookie season. Mudd also ran on UW's distance medley relay team at the NCAA indoor championships in March.

"It was definitely a good experience to race the top two guys in the nation," Mudd said. "I definitely built up a lot of confidence."

It's something he can use as he looks to notch another goal off his list when he toes the line in a semifinal race at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.

"I still have some pretty big goals for nationals," Mudd said. "I'm not going to take it lightly.

"I don't think All-American is out of the question, and that would be awesome as a freshman. 

"I'm looking forward to the race."

7:50 p.m.
Jakutyte refuses to let history repeat itself
Faced with a familiar situation, Monika Jakutyte refused to let history repeat itself.

Whether or not the senior's career at Wisconsin would continue largely hinged on successfully clearing her third and final attempt at 5 feet, 10 3/4 inches at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round.

The scenario was too similar to the one that brought her sophomore season to a close on the same infield at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas, in 2010. Then, Jakutyte finished 13th and missed a berth in the NCAA outdoor championships by a single finishing position. The difference was a single miss.

She wrote a different story on Friday.

After a pair of misses at 5-10 3/4 -- the second of which coming by the narrowest of margins -- Jakutyte came through in the clutch and cleared the bar to cement a top-12 finish and a trip to next month's NCAA outdoor championships.

"Going into the third attempt I was thinking, 'No way,'" Jakutyte said. "Two years ago I was 13th here by one miss and I was not going to let that happen again.

"That was my motivation."

That Jakutyte used her narrow miss as motivation rather than a source of added pressure on her final attempt was key. Another memory helped put the close call in perspective.

"I knew I was super close," Jakutyte said of her second attempt. "The same thing happened at Big Tens. I jumped up, I hit (the bar) with my shoulders and I knew I'd hit it.

"But then everybody started cheering and I was thinking, 'Why are you cheering?' and then I see the bar stayed on.

"The same thing happened this time. I hit it with my shoulders and then I brought my hips over and my legs over, but (the bar) sat there and then fell in slow motion."

Rather than be discouraged, Jakutyte prepared to make the most of her final opportunity.

"It was my third bar, I knew I was close, I knew I wanted to go and I knew I was not going to get left behind like I did two years ago," she said. "I think everything added up."

4:40 p.m.
Card rides wind to NCAA championships
On one hand, Kelsey Card was disappointed. On the other, she's excited about what falling short in one event means now that she's exceeded expectations in another.

A day after she missed out on advancing in the shot put, the Wisconsin freshman earned the right to move on to the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the discus with a ninth-place finish Friday at the NCAA West Preliminary Round.

She became the sixth UW woman to qualify for the national meet, which is set for June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa. 

The silver lining in not advancing in the shot put? Card can spend the next two weeks focused exclusively on honing her skills in the discus.

"Ideally, I would have liked to make it in both," Card said, "but I'm grateful that I get to go. In one way, I guess it will be nice because you always do better when you focus on one thing."

Card made the most of warm and windy conditions to emerge from a competition that lasted just shy of five hours.

While fellow competitors struggled with the wind blowing into their faces, Card unleashed a throw of 171 feet, 11 inches on the second of three attempts in her flight of the trials. It was enough to get her through to the final round of throws as the No. 9 qualifier, a spot she held onto over the final three attempts.

"It was ugly," Card said of the gusty conditions. "I ended up doing alright in my flight, but it was still kind of a struggle.

"For a lot of people it was terrible. In this last flight (the finals), it nailed you like crazy and several girls ended up with three fouls because of the wind."

The other bright spot for Card is that teammate Taylor Smith -- who failed to qualify Friday after a pair of sector fouls and an intentional foot foul after a short throw on her final attempt -- will be alongside her in Des Moines after advancing Thursday in the shot put.

"It's nice," Card said. "It's always good to have someone there to talk to and to support you. We can cheer for each other, and that's nice, too."

It's a familiar situation for the duo, though with reversed roles. Card finished sixth in the shot put at the NCAA indoor championships to earn All-America honors, while Smith was an indoor qualifier in the weight throw.

"Having already been there, it's nice to know how it all works," Card said of qualifying for both NCAA meets as a freshman. "Outdoors will be different because it's on a bigger scale, but it will be nice to be familiar with it."

NCAA West Preliminary Round Updates: Thursday

We'll be providing updates throughout the opening day of the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round in Austin, Texas, as the Badgers chase the opportunity to advance to next month's NCAA outdoor championships.

For more immediate updates:

- @Badger_Track on Twitter  |  Live Results  |  Live Video

12:32 a.m.
Being prepared for move has Krause moving on
By responding well to something he'd seen before, Elliot Krause is headed somewhere he's never been.

The Wisconsin junior anticipated the move that was coming midway through the men's 10,000 meters at the NCAA Preliminary Round and responded with a performance over the closing laps that has him headed to the NCAA outdoor championships for the first time.

Krause clocked in at 30:16.61 for 10th place, while teammate Ryan Collins missed out on an NCAA berth by the narrowest of margins. He came home 13th in a race that sends its top 12 finishers to the national meet.

With a massive, 48-man field running in a single heat, a danger exists for runners who drift back in the pack to get left behind when the leaders decide to pick up the pace. It's something Krause has been on the short end of before -- and something he leaned on his experience to help avoid Thursday.

"I've gotten caught back there before," Krause said. "That's why today I stayed right there to make sure that once there was a move I was going to be able to go with it."

Last year, the season leader at 10,000 meters missed out on an NCAA berth because he lost touch with the front runners at the preliminary round.

"I got caught behind that move and I was able to go with it last year but it's just a lot tougher to move around a lot of people and then hang right on the back," he said. "So this year I put a real main focus on making sure I was ready to be right in the middle of that move when it went."

This time, "the move" when Oregon's Luke Puskedra kicked up the pace with 12 laps remaining in the 25-lap race that had started very slowly.

"When we're running that slow at the start of the race I knew it was going to pick up at some point, so I was just trying to get ready for it," Krause said. "We went and everything kind of single-filed out for two or three laps, and then there was another move where I think five guys or so broke away. 

"That second move I couldn't really go with, but I made sure I hopped on that first move."

That was enough to keep Krause among the all-important top dozen, although he did employ a healthy kick over the final 200 meters to secure his spot.

"Two and a half months ago I was definitely not expecting to kick my way into nationals," he said. "It's a little bit of a surprise."

12:15 a.m.
Harper ready to make most of opportunity
Brittney Harper had just enough to get there, but there's no doubt she'll be more than ready.

Harper is moving on in the women's 800 meters at the NCAA West Preliminary Round by the slimmest of margins, picking up the 27th and final qualifying spot for Friday's quarterfinals by running a time of 2:08.93.

She finished fifth in her heat, outside the top three that automatically advanced -- and fell into the group of athletes that would advance -- or not -- based on their finishing times.

It appeared to be no problem in the early stages of the race, with Harper looking strong and running just a stride behind the leader in second. Her hopes faded a bit, however, when she approached the 200-meters-to-go mark.

"I felt really strong for the first part of the race, but then at the last backstretch I started cramping in my right calf and then I kind of pulled back a little bit," she said. "A couple girls passed me and I started getting nervous, so I was like, 'OK, I can't just let this calf get to me.'

"I made the last attempt at the end, and I'm glad I did, because I made it."

In the end, the time was enough to keep Harper's season moving. That's something she couldn't be happier about.

"I'm excited," she said. "I want to go into it hopefully the same way I was at the beginning of the race (today); being up in front." 

"Hopefully the calf won't get in the way of this next race and I can place even better with a better time than I did today."

11:38 p.m.
Mudd runs down NCAA leader, quarterfinal berth
Austin Mudd knew their names going into the race. After running against some of the nation's top-ranked athletes, Mudd learned even more -- that he can run with them.

The Wisconsin freshman earned a berth in Friday's quarterfinal in the men's 800 meters at the 2012 NCAA West Preliminary Round, scoring a runner-up finish in his heat in a time of 1:49.76.

The time got him into the next round -- and one race away from an NCAA championships ticket -- but the way in which he achieved it turned some heads.

With what is becoming a characteristic late-race kick, Mudd closed on the lead down the final 100 meters of the race and reeled in Charles Jock of UC Irvine, the NCAA leader at 800 meters. 

Mudd finished alongside the senior and was briefly given credit for winning the heat before official timing showed him to be just three-hundredths of a second slower than Jock.

The performance meant an automatic spot in the quarterfinals, but it also meant a little more to Mudd.

"It's a confidence-builder," Mudd said. "I was kicking, I was going all-out and I was inching ahead of everyone a little bit, so that defintely helps my confidence coming down the homestretch."

Mudd faced a difficult question in whether to run the 800 meters or 1500 meters at the preliminary round, as he boasted strong national marks in both events. Thursday, he learned that he and assistant coach Mick Byrne made the right call by choosing the 800.

"I learned to not psych myself out or think about the race too much," Mudd said of the race. "I was three-hundredths of a second behind (Charles) Jock, the NCAA leader. I just need to remind myself that I can run with these guys and put that to work out on the track."

7:35 p.m.
Blyholder's first NCAA appearance is extended
Wisconsin's Liga Blyholder likes NCAA championships competition enough that she plans to stick around for a couple more days.

Despite some anxious moments, the sophomore's bubble didn't burst Thursday. In the end, her time of 4:29.76 at the NCAA West Preliminary Round was enough to secure the final qualifying spot for Saturday's quarterfinal round in the women's 1500 meters.

"I thought I was done," Blyholder said. "I definitely didn't run the race I wanted to and, after finishing, I thought I was done. 

"I went on my cool-down and then went back and checked my phone and realized that I was actually in and took the last spot."

Blyholder ran in the first of four heats and crossed the line sixth -- one spot shy of the all-important top five that automatically earned the right to advance. Instead, she was forced to wait through the next three sections to see if her time would stand as one of the four fastest non-automatic marks.

In the end, it did.

Several athletes ran slower times -- including four over 4:30 -- but Blyholder went down as qualifier No. 24 out of 24 as the holder of the fourth-fastest non-automatic qualifying mark.

"I wasn't happy with my race and I didn't want to end my season that way," Blyholder said, "so to get a second chance to run and another chance to make nationals is great."

Regardless of how narrow the margin, she will race for an NCAA championships berth on Saturday knowing she's capable of matching the 4:19.65 she turned in to finish fifth at the Big Ten championships.

"It's definitely a learning experience," Blyholder said. "I'm still trying to get used to collegiate running and how to stay calm in competition like this."

"I learned a lot from the race."

6:55 p.m.
Different approach, same result for Finnerty and Connor
One led from the start, one tried desperately to get to the front -- and both will be racing again on Saturday at the NCAA West Preliminary Round.

Junior Rob Finnerty looked confident and in control as he paced the opening heat of the men's 1500 meters on his way to winning the opening section in 3:45.98 to automatically advance and set the tone for the event.

Sophomore Reed Connor, on the other hand, had to turn to his trademark -- the open-handed arm pumping known among the Badgers simply as "The Blades" -- to finish sixth in his heat and eek out a qualifying spot based on his time of 3:50.55.

In the end, the result was the same. Both Badgers will look to race their way on to the NCAA outdoor championships in Saturday's quarterfinal round.

"I didn't want to screw around and I knew there weren't five guys in that field that could beat me if I ran my race," Finnerty said. "It worked."

The top five finishers in each of the four first-round heats advanced to the quarterfinals automatically. After, the next best four times moved on.

That's where Connor came in.

"I'm running the 1500 now, so I decided I'd try to run like a 1500-meter guy," joked Connor, a middle-distance convert who was the Big Ten champion at 5000 meters last year. "That isn't really my true race, and I learned out there today that I have to go for the strength side of that 1500."

While Finnerty quickly turned his attention to what comes next -- "It was just about taking care of business today," he said -- Connor considered his close call as a beneficial lesson.

"As confident as I am in 'The Blades' they can only do so much in this kind of race," he said. "I have to come out here on Saturday and run a strong race from the front and then rely on 'The Blades' after that.

"Racing 1500 meters is different in the championship style and I'm learing a lot," he added. "I've got to keep on learning or the season's going to be over real quick."

5:02 p.m.
Plank, Bughman miss cut in 400 hurdles
The Badgers' duo of junior Grant Bughman and senior Patrick Plank fell just short of advancing through the preliminary round in the 400-meter hurdles.

The pair ran nearly identical times -- a 52.73 for Bughman out of Heat 5 and a 52.76 for Plank in Heat 6 -- but ended up about two-tenths of a second short. 

Bughman was 31st overall, with Plank finishing 32nd. The top 27 advanced on to the national quarterfinal on Friday.

Both have battled injuries, with Bughman sidelined for most of the 2011 outdoor season and slowed in this year's indoor campaign, while Plank was running on an injured hamstring suffered two weeks ago during the 4x100 relay at the Big Ten championships.

4:10 p.m.
Smith becomes first Badger to advance
Taylor Smith wasted little time in becoming the Badgers' first qualifier out of the NCAA West Preliminary Round.

Smith threw 53 feet, 2 1/4 inches to score a ninth-place finish in the women's shot put -- a mark the junior hit on the second of her three first-round throws. 

Her teammate, Kelsey Card, also advanced to the final round but finished 16th at 51-4 1/2 -- with the top 12 finishers advancing to next month's NCAA championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Junior Jasmine Boyer finished 25th with a mark of 49-2 1/2.

Getting the big mark out of the way early was a relief for Smith, who knew she had done enough to advance and could cruise through her three final-round throws with no pressure.

"It was really nice," Smith said. "It was getting really hot and I'm pretty tired and hungry, so it was good to get it done."

The League City, Texas, native is no stranger to the mid-90s heat that competitors faced on the first afternoon of competition in Austin. Still, it added another element of challenge for some of the first competitors to take the field at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

"I guess because I grew up here I'm supposed to be used to it, but you never get used to the heat," Smith said. "It's still pretty tough."

The shot put was the first of two events for Smith, who also will compete in the discus at 11 a.m. Friday. Successfully navigating the first is something Smith hopes will help her in her second competition of the week.

"It's a little bit easier and less stressful now," Smith said. "When I overthink, nothing goes well, so I'm just going in relaxed and looking to do what I need to do to get to nationals."
A year ago, UW men's track coach Ed Nuttycombe and women's coach Jim Stintzi were thrown for a loss when their "throwers''  fell short of expectations in the Big Ten outdoor championships.
Both are confident that Dan Block and Taylor Smith have learned something from that experience and will put their painfully acquired knowledge to good use this weekend in the field events.
"It's the proverbial saying,'' Nuttycombe said, "you learn more from trying situations - from tough situations - than you do from other situations. I think that's absolutely the case with Dan.
"It was very uncharacteristic of him to not perform at that big setting (fifth outdoors in the shot put). I don't think there's any way that he will let that happen again. He'll be ready.
"His co-hort in the discus - Alex Thompson - will be ready to go, too. He has really come along and he's a big-time meet type of guy who has done well at international junior settings.
"Hopefully, we'll get a Top Three or Top Four in each one of those events (shot put and discus). That will be a good day. Maybe one or the other does better, and we'll see a surprise in one, or both.''

Stintzi has outlined similar objectives for Taylor Smith and Kelsey Card in those events.   
"I think the last couple of Big Ten meets, we've had throwers that have put a little bit too much pressure on themselves,'' Stintzi said. "Our motto is, 'This meet is no different than any other meet.'
"We can't approach it like it's the end of the world.''
The results this spring have encouraged Stintzi. "One of the things we're seeing is steady improvements in the throws,'' he said. "We're hitting our peak at the right time.''
How might the throws factor into the team competition for the men and women?
"Big at this meet,'' Stintzi said. "As a matter of fact, you don't want to say one area is going to matter more than another - but for both of our teams, it's just the direction that we've gone.
"Throws matter a lot to us. Ironically, everyone in the Big Ten got this idea at the same time and everybody is good at the same time.''
Nuttycombe cited an example.
"If you look at the rankings,'' he said, "I think the Big Ten has the vast majority of the best throwers in the entire western region of the country in the discus. It's super competitive.''
UW assistant coach Dave Astrauskas has seen a developing trend in the talent pool from the standpoint "throwers from the Midwest used to go to the coast, now they're staying in the Big Ten.''

"Last year at the junior championships,'' he went on, "it was dominated by kids who were already in the Big Ten and going to the Big Ten. So it's only going to get better.''

What are Astrauskas' expectations for his throwers in the Big Ten meet?

"I'm just expecting them to do what they've been doing all year and that's to throw well and throw near their competitive average,'' he said. "That's all I'm asking of them.''

Nuttycombe figures if the Badgers can maintain their status quo that they will be in the hunt. "But we have to hit on the events that we're ranked high in,'' he said, "and hope that's enough.''

The shot put and discus would qualify in Nuttycombe's context.

"I think Dan Block is going to throw well in both,'' he said. "He's coming on at the right time.''

Women's track vaults into national rankings


A big weekend for the Wisconsin women's track and field team has translated into a big jump in the rankings.

The Badgers moved all the way to No. 16 in this week's edition of the national rankings compiled by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, which were released Tuesday.

UW leapt 13 spots from its No. 29 ranking last week largely on the strength of junior Taylor Smith's school-record effort in the weight throw. Smith, named Big Ten co-Field Athlete of the Week on Monday, launched a throw of 69 feet, 10 3/4 inches to win the event at Saturday's UW-Platteville Invitational.

The mark vaulted Smith to No. 5 nationally in the event and automatically secured her a spot in next month's NCAA indoor championships.

Because the USTFCCCA's rankings are based solely on athletes' national rankings, Smith's toss buoyed the Badgers.

Also supporting Wisconsin's rank is senior Monika Jakutyte, who ranks in a tie for fourth place nationally in the high jump with the clearance of 6 feet she recorded on Feb. 3.

In addition, senior and three-time All-American Dorcas Akinniyi is currently ranked No. 8 in the pentathlon after scoring 3,991 points on Feb. 3.

The Badgers' other top-25 ranked athletes include the trio of Smith (18th, 53-7 3/4), freshman Kelsey Card (17th, 53-6 1/2) and sophomore Jasmine Boyer (T-26th, 52-2 3/4) in the shot put.

Additionally, senior Caitlin Comfort is ranked 18th in the 5000 meters (16:07.90), while junior Jessica Flax stacks up No. 25 in the pentathlon (3,789 points).

Men slip out of rankings
On the men's side, the Badgers slipped out of the rankings after moving up to No. 17 last week. That's despite the effort of sophomore Dan Block, who threw 61-7 1/2 in the shot put to move up to the No. 10 spot nationally over the weekend.

Sophomore Japheth Cato, who is No. 3 in the heptathlon with his Big Ten-record total of 5,939 points, is UW's other top-10 ranked athlete.

The Badgers also picked up top-25 performances from sophomore Alex Hatz in the mile (13th, 3:58.68) and junior Maverick Darling in the 3000 meters (22nd, 7:54.70) over the weekend.

2010-11 Athlete of the Year: The contenders

Each year, Wisconsin Athletics submits its top men's and women's athletes for the prestigious Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year and Suzy Favor Female Athlete of the Year awards, presented annually by the Big Ten Conference.

The Badgers' nominees are considered to be the UW Male Athlete of the Year and UW Female Athlete of the Year award winners.

With UW teams experiencing success across the board during the 2010-11 season, it's as difficult a job as ever to narrow the field to just one deserving student-athlete on both the men's and women's sides of competition.

The winner of UW's awards will be announced Friday, but you can read profiles on each of the nominees who were not selected today. Then, make your own decision and vote in our polls on Facebook to determine the fans' choice for the Badgers' top athletes in 2010-11.

(Yes, it's pretty easy to figure out who will be announced as winners Friday...)

Men's Candidates

Gabe Carimi (Football)
The 29th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, Gabe Carimi started 49 games throughout his Badger career. A 2010 consensus first-team All-American, Carimi became the second Badger to win the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation's top interior lineman. He is just the eighth Badger to earn unanimous, consensus first-team All-America honors.

Last season Carimi was a key cog in an offense that led the Big Ten and averaged a school-record 41.5 points per game (fifth in the country), including 45.2 points per game in Big Ten play, second-best in conference history. UW also led the Big Ten and ranked 12th in the country in rushing offense, nearly becoming the first FBS team in history to have three running backs go over 1,000 yards in the same season.

At left tackle, Carimi lined up against some of the best defensive linemen in the country, including All-Americans Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, Cameron Heyward of Ohio State and Adrian Clayborn of Iowa. He was just the third player in Badger history to earn Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors.

Earlier this month, Carimi was named Wisconsin's male Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient. He graduated in May with 3.13 grade-point average in civil and environmental engineering and was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Landon Peacock (Cross Country)
Landon Peacock capped off his senior season for the Badgers in style with a come-from-behind performance that gave him the win in a dramatic men's race at the 2010 Big Ten Cross Country Championship.

The Morley, Mich., native claimed his first individual Big Ten title by a half-second, out-leaning Indiana's Andrew Bayer at the finish line for the win. Peacock clocked in at 23 minutes, 40.8 seconds, while Bayer was second in 23:41.3.

The victory made Peacock UW's 27th individual conference champion and led the way for the Badgers to secure their 12th-consecutive team crown in the first-ever Big Ten championship held at their own Zimmer Championship Course.

Sitting fifth heading into the course's finishing chute, Peacock charged past teammate Mohammed Ahmed and Minnesota's Ben Blankenship and trailed only Bayer with 30 meters to go. He finally hunted the Hoosier down at the line to become UW's first individual titlist since Matt Withrow in 2007.

He went on to earn first-team all-region honors with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional -- as UW won its eighth-straight team title -- and then scored All-America laurels for the second time in his career with a 20th-place showing at the 2010 NCAA Championship.

In track, Peacock was unable to defend his 2010 Big Ten title in the 5,000 meters as an injury sidelined him for the duration of the indoor season. However, he came back outdoors to finish fifth at the Big Ten meet in the 5,000 and then posted a personal-best time of 13:42.90 in the event at the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round. 

Despite the outstanding time, which would have won the other preliminary-round heat in Eugene, Ore., as well as both sections of the event at the NCAA East Preliminary Round site, Peacock did not advance to the NCAA championships due to regional qualifying procedures.

Anchoring the blue line for the Badgers in the 2010-11 season, Justin Schultz completed his sophomore campaign as the nation's top-scoring defenseman with 18 goals and 47 points.  His 18 goals were the most by a blueliner in the nation since 2002-03 and was just one shy of the UW single-season record for a defenseman.

Schultz had a remarkable sophomore season and did not go more than two games without a point. He scored the opening goal of a game five times and led the Badgers with 14 multi-point games.

The All-American was also named Defenseman of the Year by Inside College Hockey,  WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-WCHA,  was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and earned a spot on College Hockey News' national first team.

On Nov. 27 against Michigan State, Schultz became the sixth Badger defenseman in program history -- and the first since 1991-92 -- to record a hat trick. He was also the sixth Wisconsin defenseman to lead the team in points. 

Schultz was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week after scoring the overtime game-winner in a 6-5 victory over Canisius on Jan. 8, snapping UW's 26-game overtime winless drought.  He tallied three assists against Alabama Huntsville on Oct. 17 and had a total of three multi-goal games on the year. 

In part to Schultz's efforts, Wisconsin ranked No. 8 nationally in goals-against average at 2.39. The Badgers also had the nation's top-scoring defensive corps, with a combined 120 points from the blue line. 

Women's Candidates

Dorcas Akinniyi (Track & Field)
Dorcas Akinniyi continues to haul in hardware every time she heads to a championship meet. The Carrollton, Texas, native added to her collection in 2011 with All-America honors both indoors and outdoors.

Akinniyi has qualified for the NCAA championships in all five seasons -- indoor and outdoor combined -- in which she's been eligible. After this season, she has also collected an All-America award four times. 

She posted her best-ever NCAA finish with an outstanding fourth-place showing in the pentathlon at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships, racking up a school-record total of 4,254 points to earn her first All-America laurel of the year. 

That performance came on the heels of her second-consecutive conference title in the pentathlon at the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships, where she scored 3,929 points.

Moving outdoors, Akinniyi earned a berth directly to the NCAA championships by virtue of her heptathlon score of 5,352 points at the Mt. SAC Relays Multi-Events in April. She also qualified for the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round in the open high jump for the second-straight season.

At the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Akinniyi piled up 5,554 points -- just 30 markers shy of her lifetime-best score -- to finish sixth in the heptathlon and secure the fourth All-America honor of her career. A career-best 3,469 points on the opening day of the two-day, seven-event competition propelled Akinniyi to another top-eight finish.

Hilary Knight (Hockey)
After taking a year off to compete with the U.S. Olympic Team in the 2010 Winter Games, Hilary Knight returned to Wisconsin for her junior season, leading the nation with 47 goals and helping the Badgers to their fourth NCAA championship.

Third in the nation in points with 81 on the season, the alternate captain now sits in third place on the UW all-time career-scoring list with 202 points.

Knight tallied a career-best 20-game point streak that spanned from Dec. 10 to Feb. 26, tying for the second-longest steak in UW history. In 41 games, she recorded 25 multi-point games, including three five-point efforts and four hat tricks. With her 47 goals, Knight scored more goals than four NCAA Division I teams did all year.

Knight was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week twice, once after tallying five points against RPI on Oct. 2 and lastly on Jan. 5 after having back-to-back four-point games against Northeastern and Mercyhurst  at the Easton Holiday Showcase.

Scoring just 47 seconds into the Fill the Bowl contest at the Kohl Center, Knight tallied the first of three goals as the Badgers downed Minnesota, 3-1, in front of 10,668 fans on Jan. 29. Her game-winning goal against Bemidji State on Feb. 4 marked her 100th career tally.

She led UW with two points, including the game-tying goal and an assist on the game-winner, against Minnesota Duluth in an NCAA regional game on March 12. She went on to record three assists at the Frozen Four, including two in a 3-2 win over Boston College on March 18 in the national semifinal game. 

On the national stage, Knight represented the United States as a member of the Women's Under-22 Select Team at the 2010 USA Hockey Women's National Festival and a three-game series against Canada.

Knight tallied three points for the U.S. Women's Select Team in the 2010 Women's Four Nations Cup in St. John's, Canada, where Team USA placed second.

After winning the national title with Wisconsin, Knight scored the game-winner in overtime against Canada as the U.S. Women's National Team claimed gold in April's 2011 IIHF World Women's Championship in Zurich and Winterthur, Switzerland.

Maggie Meyer (Swimming)
Maggie Meyer capped off a brilliant career at Wisconsin by becoming the first national champion in program history when she won the 200-yard backstroke at the 2011 NCAA Championships in March. Meyer finished the NCAAs as a six-time All-American and was an 11-time All-American for her career. 

With seven honorable mention All-America honors in career as well, Meyer tied for the second-most All-America accolades in school history with 18.

The 2011 Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, Meyer won five of the six events she entered at the 2011 Big Ten Championships, bumping her career total to 10 conference titles. The White Bear Lake, Minn., native swept the 100 and 200 backstroke events, then recorded relay wins in the 400 free, 200 medley and 400 medley. 

She set four school records as a senior, bringing her career total to six. Meyer also set a Big Ten record in the 200 medley relay.

In addition to setting the school record in the 200 back, Meyer also lowered the mark individually in the 100 back (51.66). In the relays, Meyer was a part of record-setting teams in the 200 medley relay (1:35.71) and 400 medley relay (3:31.73).

Meyer dominated the backstroke events in 2010-11, going undefeated in the 200 backstroke and winning 10 of 11 races in the 100 back. All told, Meyer won 38 out of possible 57 races she entered during the season either as an individual or as a member of a relay unit.