Opening statement: Strong start has Badgers second at Big Tens


ON WISCONSIN
<b>Cato unleashed a personal-best leap of 25 feet, 3/4 inch to take third place in the long jump.</b>

ON WISCONSIN
Cato unleashed a personal-best leap of 25 feet, 3/4 inch to take third place in the long jump.
ON WISCONSIN

Feb. 24, 2012

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- A multi-event athlete by trade, Japheth Cato has never been one to settle on doing just one thing.

He did it all for the Badgers on Friday.

The sophomore led the charge for an impressive opening day of competition for the Wisconsin men’s track and field team, which stands second to host Nebraska midway through the 2012 Big Ten Indoor Championships in Lincoln, Neb.

The defending conference champion, Cato is ahead of his own record pace in the heptathlon, but he also made his presence felt in two other events.

His opening-day score of 3,281 points leads the pack in the heptathlon and puts him on pace to break the Big Ten record he set in the same facility just three weeks  ago. He posted personal-best marks in two of the four heptathlon disciplines contested Friday, but he also had lifetime-best showings in a pair of open events.

Cato unleashed a personal-best leap of 25 feet, 3/4 inch to take third place in the long jump -- one of just five events that factored into Friday’s team scoring -- after entering the meet seeded No. 7 in the event.

He also shattered his previous best in the 60 hurdles by running a time of 7.88 seconds to post the second-fastest mark in the preliminary round. He trailed only the 7.74 laid down by Illinois All-American Andrew Riley. Cato’s previous best in the event was 8.00.

Redshirt freshman Matt Widule also qualified for the final with a personal-best effort of 8.05 -- which ranks in a tie for No. 10 all-time at Wisconsin -- in his first Big Ten race.

Few put in more time at the track Friday than Cato, who was off and running with the first event of the day -- the heptathlon 60 meters -- at 10 a.m. and didn’t shut down until the final event -- the long jump -- wrapped up just shy of 8 p.m.

“It was a very long day,” Cato said. “The heptathlon went very well, but I was really happy with the way I ran in the hurdles because I didn’t even have the chance to warm up before I ran.

“I didn’t expect that 7.88 at all. I just wanted to make finals to put myself in position to score us some points.”

In the heptathlon, Cato won the 60 meters by dashing to a finishing time of 7.05 seconds and earned the top spot in the long jump after launching 24-3 1/2. He also tied for third in the high jump with a clearance of 6-8 and finished fifth in the shot put with a personal-best heave of 43-0 1/2.

“I have to take care of myself tonight and be ready to get back out here and compete tomorrow,” Cato said.

Freshman Zach Ziemek will be in contention for a scoring spot, as well, as he sits in sixth place after recording 3,012 points through four events. UW senior David Grzesiak is in eighth place with 2,982 points.

The heptathlon competition continues tomorrow at 10 a.m. with the 60 hurdles followed by the pole vault and 1000 meters.

The Badgers were also boosted by a pair of top-five finishes from Dan Block and Mickey DeFilippo, thanks to a pair of personal-best marks.

Block scored a second-place finish in the shot put with his school-record effort of 62 feet, 1/2 inch (18.91m). The mark topped the previous record set in 2006 by Joe Thomas (62-0 1/4, 18.90m) by just one centimeter.

DeFilippo, meanwhile, vaulted to an indoor personal-best height of 17-1 1/2 to finish fifth in the pole vault. With his effort -- his second personal-best performance in as many weeks -- DeFilippo also tied James Dunkleberger for the No. 2 all-time performance in Wisconsin history.

In the 3000 meters, junior Reed Connor took a fourth-place finish with a time of 8:03.61. Three other Badgers competed in the event, as Alex Brill finished eighth with a time of 8:05.56 to add a point for UW, while junior Maverick Darling was ninth in a time of 8:06.86 and redshirt freshman Jake Erschen 10th in a time of 8:12.61.

Wisconsin also earned valuable points toward their team total in the distance medley relay. Junior Zach Mellon, freshman Aaron Thompson and sophomores Tim Hucke and Alex Hatz teamed up to take second placed with a time of 9:44.99. Penn State edged out the Badgers for the win with a time of 9:44.40.

“I’m very pleased with the way our team competed today,” UW head coach Ed Nuttycombe said. ”Like everybody else, we can point to some points we left out there, but we also made some big gains in a couple of events to come out of the first day in good position.”

With only five events scored Friday, much of the competition hinged on advancing runners through to Saturday’s final rounds on the track.

A pair of Badgers qualified for finals in the 800 meters. Mellon took fifth in the event with a time of 1:49.62, while freshman teammate Austin Mudd finished just behind in a personal-best time of 1:49.78.

Hatz finished fifth in the preliminary section of the mile with a time of 4 minutes, 6.83 seconds to advance to the final of what is annually one of the Big Ten’s most hotly-contested events.

In the preliminary section of the 400 meters, senior Brady Hammon placed sixth with a personal-best time of 47.97 seconds and moved on to the finals.

Tyler Woloszyk advanced with a fifth-place finish in the 600 meters, using a late surge to cross the finish line in 1:18.86.

“I don’t know if we can win the meet,” Nuttycombe said, “but we’re in position to make a great run at it on Saturday.”

ON WISCONSIN
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