MADISON, Wis. - Saturday's Badger Track Classic offered a fresh start for the No. 13 Wisconsin men's track and field team, and no one made more of the opportunity than Collin Taylor.
Sidelined for the entirety of the 2011 season with a knee injury, Taylor was anxious to make his return to competition after nearly a full year away from the high jump.
He proved he was ready by making an immediate impact on the Badgers' record book.
"I was so nervous coming in to this having not jumped for a year in competition," Taylor said. "I was really anxious to get out here, probably more than anybody."
Based on his performance there was no way for anyone inside The Shell to see any of the nerves he may have been feeling as he won the high jump competition.
Taylor cleared 7 feet, 1/4 inch to not only set a new personal-best mark but also become just the 10th athlete in Wisconsin history to clear the seven-foot mark.
"It felt great," said Taylor, who celebrated his 21st birthday Saturday. "I've been trying to get 2.14 meters, the seven-foot jump, since high school."
Having already recovered from his physical injury, Saturday's performance helped Taylor get past what he referred to as a "mental barrier." Still, Taylor is not content, even though his performance already placed him among some of Wisconsin's finest.
"I want to keep going up," Taylor said. "I want to be No. 1, but that's farther down the road. I've got a couple years left."
It was a busy day for sophomore Japheth Cato, who competed in a total of three events on the day.
One of his first performances, and most notable, came in the preliminary round of the 60 hurdles. Cato finished in 8 seconds flat, which marked the eighth-fastest time in Wisconsin history.
"I was trying to break eight (seconds), going into the 7.90 region," Cato said. "But, it went pretty well."
Cato went on to finish only a fraction of a second slower in the final, clocking in at a time of 8.01 seconds to take the win.
The consistency displayed in both is something Cato said is a focal point in early-season meets.
"Consistency is probably the main thing you want to do when you're running a race," Cato said. "I am being very consistent, and I think with a couple more races, a couple more meets under my belt I'll be pretty good."
Cato also competed and took runner-up honors in both the long jump and pole vault. He finished with a best leap of 23 feet, 11 3/4 inches in the long jump, and then cleared the bar at 16-10 3/4 in the pole vault.
Sophomore Dan Block continued the trend of success with his performance in the throws.
Block took first place in the weight throw, finishing with a toss of 58-8, which ranks No. 2 in Wisconsin history. In the shot put, Block threw 60-6 to set a new personal best and earn a second-place finish.
Transfer Matt Kerswill made his Wisconsin debut a good one, winning the 200 meters in impressive fashion by clocking in at 22.29 seconds. In the 60 meter dash, Kerswill finished in a time of 6.91 to earn a second-place finish.
Alex Brill also contributed individually to provide one of the Badgers' six event wins with his performance in the mile. Finishing in a time of 4:19.81, the sophomore took first place by edging out teammate Jake Erschen, who was second in 4:19.82.
The Badgers will remain in Madison next weekend, hosting the Wisconsin Elite Invitational on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 20 and 21.
"These early season meets are very important, especially for the younger guys that don't really know the atmosphere that comes around them," Cato said. "I think starting off with a really good meet helps their mentality and focus on what they need to do in the long run."