April 30, 2012
• Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational Results
MADISON, Wis. -- Mohammed Ahmed's going to feel this one in the morning. Not that he cares.
The Wisconsin junior did more than compete in the fastest 10,000 meters race in the world this year; he held his own.
In his first competition of the season, Ahmed all but assured himself of a place in the 2012 Olympic Games with a lifetime-best run of 27 minutes, 34.64 seconds that was good for a sixth-place finish late Sunday at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif.
"Running that time, I know I'm going to be hurting for a couple days, but if I'd run 28 minutes I'd be hurting, too," Ahmed said. "In the 10K, you can't settle. I was telling myself, 'You've been here for 20 laps with these guys, you can do it.'
"I just wanted to go to the Olympics and I can't believe it."
Ahmed clocked in well under the automatic qualifying standard for the London Olympics with a time that was not only good for a sixth-place finish in an elite field, but ranks as the sixth-fastest time in the world this year.
Fellow Canadian Cameron Levins raced in at 27:27.96 to win the event and assume the world lead.
Ahmed surpassed the Olympic standard by just over 10 seconds. The gap he put on second place in the Badgers' record book is even larger, however. Five years to the day that Tim Nelson set UW's standard in the event, Ahmed broke the school record by just shy of 30 seconds -- doing so on the same track.
Another former Badger and mentor of Ahmed's-- Canadian record-holder Simon Bairu -- finished 17th in 27:58.05.
Ahmed, who redshirted the indoor season for the Badgers and had yet to compete outdoors, had decided the Payton Jordan meet -- long known for exceptional distance running -- would be his lone shot at the Olympic standard.
"I think if I didn't get the 'A' standard here, I might have been done and just focusing on (collegiate) stuff," he said. "I wasn't going to go get another race, I wouldn't have even gone to the (Canadian Olympic) trials.
"I said, 'You're giving yourself one shot, and if you don't get it, that's it.'"
But he got it.
Now, the only thing that stands between Ahmed and a trip to the Games is officially earning his place on Team Canada. The road to London runs through Calgary, where he must compete in the Canadian Olympic Trials to finalize his invitation to the national team.
Between now and June 27 -- when the Canadian trials get underway -- Ahmed can turn his focus to competing for the Badgers at the Big Ten championships and into NCAA championships competition.
With the Olympic standard secured, time is literally on Ahmed's side. He can now ignore the clock and focus instead on racing the competition.
"I've been focusing on this for four years," he said. "My high school coach prepared me and then Mick (Byrne) took over and has done a great job. Plus, I have such great teammates and every single day I have six or seven guys who can push me.
"When you have that, it makes your life a lot easier."
Another pair of Badgers were jockeying for their place on UW's all-time list, as Austin Mudd and Reed Connor each posted personal-best times in their respective sections of the 1500 meters.
It was Mudd who set the tone first, running in a competitive section of the 1500 meters. The freshman recorded a personal-best time of 3 minutes, 40.87 seconds to earn his third win in the event this season.
Mudd's time ranked No. 10 all-time in the event for Wisconsin.
That was, until Connor ran in his section of the 1500 meters shortly following Mudd's.
In an elite field of his own, which included four of the nation's top 20 runners in the 1500 meters, Connor raced to a personal-best finish of 3:40.46 to finish sixth. Rob Finnerty also ran in the event for UW, placing ninth with a personal-best time of 3:41.07.
Each of the three Badgers put themselves in contention for a berth in the USA Olympic Trials by surpassing the "B" qualifying standard of 3:43.00.
Connor's time also edged out Mudd's, moving Connor into the No. 10 spot on UW's all-time list.
The news was even better for former Badgers Jack Bolas and Craig Miller, who both raced under the Olympic Trials "A" standard to earn automatic bids to the meet. Bolas was fifth in a lifetime-best 3:37.31, while Miller clocked in with a personal-best 3:37.48 for sixth.
Also competing at the meet, former Badger Luke Rucks ran to an impressive win in another section of the 1500 meters with a time of 3:44.90..
Elliot Krause was another Badger at his best on Sunday, cutting plenty of time off his previous best performance to time in at a personal-best of 13:42.38 to win the 5000 meters. The junior shaved a whole 13 seconds off his old top mark.
Daniel Chenoweth also ran in the same section of the 5000 meters, finishing in a time of 13:49.41 to come in 14th place.
In the 800 meters, Zach Mellon came in 14th place after recording a time of 1:49.81. Santa Monica TC runner Prince Mumba won the event after posting a time of 1:47.04.
"We had a great meet," Ahmed said. "Every single person on our team ran well tonight, and that's just hard work.
"We didn't have a good indoor season, but we've worked hard since then. It's unbelievable."