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In pictures: NCAA prelims day 1

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Be sure to check out a photo gallery from Thursday's opening day of the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships Preliminary Round on UWBadgers.com:

Photo Gallery: NCAA Preliminary Round - Day 1

Staisiunaite on to quarterfinals

Staisiunaite_Egle_BT_Out_10_Blog.jpgJunior Egle Staisiunaite is on to the quarterfinals of the women's 400-meter hurdles after her first-round performance Thursday at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships Preliminary Round in Austin, Texas.

Staisiunaite grabbed the third and final automatic qualifying spot in her section by claiming third in the heat, running a time of 1:00.19. She was the only qualifier that failed to crack the 1-minute mark, but she is just two weeks removed from running a 58.59 to claim fourth at the Big Ten championships.

She will race in the quarterfinals Friday looking to finish among the top 12 that will earn a spot in the national semifinal at the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore., in June.

Sophomore Jenna Severson, in her first NCAA competition, finished 34th overall with a time of 1:01.30 and did not advance out of the first round.

Also Thursday, senior Amanda Donath wrapped up her career by running a 2:20.92 in the 800 meters.

Soceka first to punch ticket for Eugene

Soceka_Jenny_BT_Out_Blog.jpgSenior Jenny Soceka, fresh off her Big Ten title in the pole vault, became the first member of the Wisconsin women's track and field team to earn a trip to the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Soceka survived a pole vault competition that included 48 competitors and lasted more than four hours Thursday at the NCAA preliminary round in Austin, Texas, and advanced to the national final as one of the top 12 finishers in the competition.

Soceka cleared 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches on her third and final attempt at the height to place eighth Thursday. She was clean through the three bars that preceded the final height, with first-attempt clearances at 13-1 1/2, 13-5 1/4 and 13-7 1/4.

The performance sets up a return to the national championship meet for Soceka, who earned All-America honors with a seventh-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships. She redshirted the 2009 season.

A look at the women's NCAA start lists

Comfort_Caitlin_BT_Out_10_Blog.jpegSome thoughts on what the start lists for the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships Preliminary Round mean for the Wisconsin women's track and field team...

Start lists: Men | Women

- Senior Amanda Donath won't have to wait long for her first-round race in the 800 meters. She runs in heat 1 of the event, which runs at 8 p.m. Thursday. Her section includes BYU's Nachelle Stewart, who is the No. 5 overall seed in the 800. Donath will be racing for a spot in Friday's quarterfinal.

- Redshirt freshman Caitlin Comfort will be part of the mass of humanity that is the 10,000 meters semifinal Thursday. She enters the race seeded No. 20, which places her in the middle of the massive pack of 48 runners that all will compete in a single section. They are racing to be among the top 12 and advance on to the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene.

- Junior Egle Staisiunaite is the No. 2 seed in her section of the 400-meter hurdles, and she will run out of lane 6 in the fourth of six heats. That puts her in a good position to advance to Friday's quarterfinal, as the top three finishers in each heat automatically move on.

- Sophomore Jenna Severson, who went under 60 seconds in back-to-back races at the Big Ten championships, is seed fourth in the opening section of the first round and is one of four in her heat to crack the 1-minute barrier this season. Among her competition is No. 1 overall seed Angele Cooper of Texas, who has run 56.52.

- Start lists don't usually mean a whole lot for field events, but the vertical jumps at the NCAA preliminary round are an interesting exception. With 48 competitors in the field for the high jump and pole vault, it could be a long day for Jenny Soceka in the vault Thursday and for Megan Seidl, Monika Jakutyte and Dorcas Akinniyi at the high jump Saturday. The setup for both events involves dual pits running simultaneously, with 24 competitors at each.

A look at the men's NCAA start lists

Beth_Zach_Twilight_10_Blog.jpgThe start lists for this week's 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships Preliminary Round have been posted. Check out the complete start lists: Men | Women

Some quick observations from my first glance over the men's lists...
- James Groce and Kyle Jefferson will both race in heat 4 of the men's 400 meters first round, with Jefferson getting a prime draw in lane 5. The top three finishers from each section automatically advance to the quarterfinals Friday.

- Luke Rucks has the fastest seed time of the entries in his section (heat 4) of the men's 800 meters Thursday. Zach Beth will race in heat 5 against the No. 5 overall seed for the meet and defending NCAA champion Andrew Wheating of Oregon. The top three from each section automatically advance to the quarterfinals Friday.

- Wheating will be running his second race of the day, however, since he'll match up against UW's Jack Bolas in the first heat of the men's 1,500 meters first round. Wheating is the top seed in the 1,500. Also in Bolas' section is Minnesota's Ben Blankenship, who finished third to Bolas and teammate Craig Miller at the Big Ten championships.

- Miller is the second-fastest qualifier in heat 3 of the 1,500, with his best competition (on paper) Oregon junior A.J. Acosta, who is the No. 3 overall seed in the event. The top five in each heat of the 1,500 advance to Saturday's quarterfinal.

- Senior Ryan Gasper is seeded second-fastest in his section of the 3,000-meter steeplechase (heat 2) Friday and is one of three in the heat to break the 8:45.00 mark this season. He will be racing directly for a spot in Eugene, as the top three finishers in each heat and the next three fastest overall times (12 total) advance to the NCAA championships. Sophomore Phil Thomas also will run in heat 2.

- Redshirt freshman Maverick Darling is seeded seventh-fastest in heat 2 of the men's 5,000 meters Saturday, and he will be battling to finish among the top five in his section to advance to Eugene.

- The men's 10,000 meters is borderline ridiculous. The race will consist of one heat, with all 48 athletes on the track at the same time. Good luck to the lap counters for this one. Freshman Mohammed Ahmed, redshirt freshman Elliot Krause and junior Landon Peacock will race to be among the top 12 to earn a spot in the final in Eugene.

- Senior Nate Larkin is familiar with his competition in the final heat of the men's 110-meter hurdles first round Friday. Illinois' Andrew Riley, to whom Larkin ran runner-up at the Big Ten championships both indoors and outdoors, also races in his section. The top three in each heat automatically advance to the quarterfinals Saturday.

- The Badgers' 4x100-meter relay has its work cut out for it Saturday. UW drew lane two in the opening section of the race and is seeded fourth-fastest in the heat. No. 2 overall seed Baylor (39.18) will be the team to beat for the Badgers (40.15), who need to be among the top three in their heat or one of the next three fastest times to advance to Eugene.

- Wisconsin also faces off against Baylor in the 4x400 relay later in the day Saturday, as the Badgers drew lane 8 for the final section of the event. They own the slowest seed time in their heat at 3:09.59, with Baylor's 3:02.70 the class of the section and ranked No. 2 overall coming into the weekend.

Up and away

The Wisconsin men's and women's track and field teams are officially on their way to the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships Preliminary Round in Austin, Texas.

Not without incident, however.

After the women's team successfully departed the McClain Center for the Dane County Regional Airport at 8:15 a.m., a severe thunderstorm rolled through the area.

That meant, by the time the Meister Coaches bus returned to shuttle the men's team to the airport, what was a sunny morning had turned into a downpour with plenty of thunder and lightning. The early arrivers to the McClain Center stayed dry, but several -- namely Craig Miller and Ryan Gasper -- were a little damp after walking through the deluge.

The men rolled out on schedule at 9 a.m., but freshman Mohammed Ahmed still cut things close. A Canadian citizen, Ahmed boarded the bus without his passport and was forced to snag a taxi and go back to pick up his required identification.

As of 10:05 a.m., assistant coach Mark Guthrie reported that Ahmed had just arrived at the entrance to the TSA screening area, giving him enough time to make the Badgers' scheduled 10:36 departure from Madison for a connecting flight in Denver.

Ahmed -- fresh off winning the Big Ten title in the event -- will run the 10,000 meters at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. He is one of 23 athletes representing the Badgers on the men's side at the preliminary-round meet.

A total of 13 athletes are on their way to compete for the Badger women.

Follow the preliminary round with live video streams, available at ncaa.com, and look for a complete preview of the Badgers' entries Wednesday on UWBadgers.com.

Talented Jorgensen tackling triathlons

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Jorgensen_Gwen_NCAA_Reg_09_Blog.jpgA year removed from her final season competing for the Badgers, former UW All-American Gwen Jorgensen remains a competitor. She won the won the Crazylegs Classic in Madison a month ago -- in record time -- and has been training to compete in triathlons.

In fact, she's done more than just train for the the three-event competition that blends swimming, running and cycling. Recruited by USA Triathlon to take up the sport, she already has achieved elite status based on her performance at the USAT Elite Development Race held in Clermont, Fla., in March.

Now, she's heading to the World University Triathlon Championships, which is set for Sunday in Valencia, Spain. The competition, sponsored by the International University Sports Federation, consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run.

Jorgensen is one of five women on the 10-person U.S. team for the event, which is being contested to Olympic standards.

A swimmer for the Badgers before making the transition to cross country and track, Jorgensen seemingly has two-thirds of the triathlon game figured out, and she is training on the cycling end of things with the Team GEARGRINDER cycling club.

Tom Held of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caught up with Jorgensen to profile her transition from track to triathlon. You also can read the full release on the World University Championships from USA Triathlon and, if your Spanish is good enough, check out the meet's home page.

In pictures: Big Ten outdoor championships

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The men's and women's photo galleries from Sunday's action at the 2010 Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships have been posted on UWBadgers.com. Check them out below, along with the galleries for Friday and Saturday, in case you missed them.

As you can see above, the photos are Nate Larkin-approved.

Day 3 - Sunday, May 16
Men's Photo Gallery  Women's Photo Gallery

Day 2 - Saturday, May 15
Men's Photo Gallery  |  Women's Photo Gallery

Day 1 - Friday, May 14
Men's Photo Gallery  |  Women's Photo Gallery

Soceka's title highlights big day in field for Badgers

Soceka_Jenny_BT_Blog.jpgComplete Results

Check back to UWBadgers.com for a complete recap Sunday evening.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The road had a few more dips than she'd anticipated, but Jenny Soceka completed her path to the top of the Big Ten Conference on Sunday.

Soceka took her spot atop the podium on the final day of the 2010 Big Ten Outdoor Championships after winning her first conference title in the pole vault.

The performance verified Soceka's place atop the conference standings in the event, as she cleared 13 feet, 5 1/4 inches to easily out-pace runner-up Kelsie Ahbe of Indiana and third-place finisher Alicia Rue of Minnesota, who both cleared at 13-1 1/2.

It also led the way for the Badgers' outstanding final day in the field events, as Wisconsin racked up 101.5 points to claim a third-place team finish.

The performance, which trailed only champion Penn State's total of 133.5 and runner-up Minnesota's 123 points, marked the Badgers' best Big Ten finish since finishing third in 2000.

The pole vault championship came two years after Soceka earned runner-up honors in the event in 2008. She redshirted the 2009 season to continue her development and then struggled down the stretch of this year's indoor season, ultimately failing to clear a bar at the Big Ten indoor championships.

She bounced back in a big way outdoors, however, and came up big for the Badgers this weekend. In addition to her pole vault title -- just the second in UW history, joining Tara Clack's 2003 crown -- she also posted a fourth-place finish in the heptathlon.

The Badgers also scored big in the triple jump with senior Chavon Robinson taking runner-up honors, sophomore Jordan Helgren finishing third and senior LaQuita Brazil grabbing a fifth-place finish.

Robinson leapt 41 feet, 10 3/4 inches on her final attempt to hold down second place, while Helgren's penultimate jump was her best at 41-6 1/2. Brazil boasted a lifetime-best leap of 40-9 3/4 to take fifth.

In the high jump, sophomore Monika Jakutyte tied for third at 5-9 3/4, while senior Megan Seidl took fifth with same clearance on the criteria of misses.

Akinniyi completes multi-event sweep

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All she could do was shrug. And smile.

A win was likely already in hand, but Dorcas Akinniyi's explosive personal-best throw in the javelin propelled her to an outstanding score of 5,584 points and a Big Ten Conference title in the heptathlon.

The victory completed a season sweep of the Big Ten's multi-event titles for Akinniyi, who also claimed the indoor pentathlon title at the conference indoor meet in March.

ON WISCONSIN