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Hatz off: Big Ten-best run leads Badgers to team title

<b>Hatz's performance in the mile Saturday has him ranked second nationally so far this season</b>

Hatz's performance in the mile Saturday has him ranked second nationally so far this season

Jan. 21, 2012

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MADISON, Wis. -- Alex Hatz had plenty to gain from his first appearance on the track in nearly a year, but he wasn't the only one that benefited from a solid opening performance.

Hatz laid down the Big Ten's best mark in the mile this season, an effort that helped spur his No. 13-ranked Wisconsin men's track and field team to a win on its home track Saturday at The Shell.

Hatz's was one of seven event wins for the Badgers, who scored 150 points to hold off runner-up Illinois State (128 points) and claim the team title in their own Wisconsin Invitational.

Western Illinois finished third with 114 points and Valparaiso was fourth with 71 points.

After a long off-season due to a nagging injury that forced him to redshirt the 2011 outdoor season, Hatz got off on the right foot in his return to the track.

Teaming up with junior Zach Mellon, Hatz cruised to an easy win in a time of 4 minutes, 3.58 seconds. Mellon finished right behind in second, clocking in at 4:05.18.

Hatz's performance converts to a mark of 4:01.78 for NCAA championships consideration, placing him atop the Big Ten and second nationally so far this season. Hatz trails only Boston University's Rich Peters (4:00.13) on the NCAA performance list.

"It was a good way to start," Hatz said. "I knew we were chasing four minutes, so there's a little disappointment there, but it's a good way to start."

Though he competed in cross country in the fall, Hatz was looking forward to a race to begin getting back in form on the track.

"It's been a long time and we've been ready to race for a while," Hatz said. "It's nice to get out here and shake the rust off. It's tough, it never feels quite like we'd like it to, but it's a good thing to get going, especially at home."

Senior Quinn Evans also got his season going, debuting in the 600 meters. Evans coasted to a finishing time of 1:19.69 to take the win.

Coming off a strong performance in last weekend's Badger Track Classic, sophomore Japheth Cato cleared 16 feet, 10 3/4 inches in the pole vault to finish second. Three other Badgers finished in the top five, as senior Mickey DeFilippo's vault (16-2 3/4) placed him third, freshman Zach Ziemek finished fourth (15-9) and senior Wes Kavelaris was fifth (15-3).

After setting a personal best in weight throw last weekend, sophomore Dan Block continued to outdo himself, throwing a lifetime-best distance of 60-3 3/4 to win the weight throw. Block also finished first in the shot put with a toss of 59-08 1/4.

In the long jump, redshirt freshman Justin Bowers leaped to a win with a personal-best distance of 23-11.

With their brief two-week homestand completed, head coach Ed Nuttycombe feels the Badgers took positive steps in setting themselves up for a successful season.

"The indoor season is so short, it's important for us to maximize what we get out of these first two weeks," Nuttycombe said. "I was certainly happy to see us make some improvements over last week.

"The two home meets set us up well to go on the road and start putting some bigger things together."

Those bigger things begin next weekend as Wisconsin travels to Ames, Iowa, for the Bill Bergan Invitational next Saturday, Jan. 28.

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