Mav's move: Darling picks his spot and picks off Big Ten title


Darling

May 10, 2013

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Seemingly immune to the ebbs and flows of pace and position over the course of 25 laps around the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium track, Maverick Darling's expression never changed.

A look of calm on his face from the start, Darling found his comfort zone just back of the lead, on the shoulder of defending champion Zachary Mayhew.

He never wavered through all the speeding up, slowing down and swapping of the lead -- not to mention the soaking rain. The calm and comfortable expression he wore remained unchanged.

At least until he finished that 25th lap. The smile on his face and the subdued pump of his fist as he crossed the finish line of a perfectly-executed race were just as telling as the blank expression he had projected for the previous 29 minutes.

The focus that was evident on Darling's face throughout the 10,000 meters Friday at the 2013 Big Ten Outdoor Championships is what allowed him to walk away from the track wearing the smile of a champion.

The Wisconsin senior won the event easily after leaving Mayhew in his wake with 800 meters to go, finishing in a track-record time of 29:25.11.

Darling's effort, along with a gutsy fourth-place finish by fellow senior Elliot Krause, helped the Badgers put a cap on a strong start to the three-day event in Columbus, Ohio. UW holds second place in the team standings after tallying 15 points on the opening day of competition and trails only early leader Minnesota (20 points).

"It's definitely good to start it off like this, getting some solid points in the 10K, one of our better events," said Darling, a team captain. "Hopefully we will carry the momentum, get the guys going a little bit, get them motivated and saying, `Hey, we are still in this fight.'

"I know we have come in a little banged up, but we are here, and we are here to compete.'"

Krause epitomized that mantra Friday, racing his way to fourth in 29:35.17 despite the lingering effects of an injury that severely hampered his training over the last four weeks. Prior to the race, there was doubt as to whether Krause could cover the entire 10-kilometer distance.

He quickly escaped the shadow of those doubts, however, by helping the Badgers set the pace for a majority of the race. He and teammate Brian Leung took turns at the point early on, but eventually it was Krause who set the tempo as the leader.

"We didn't know if Elliot was going to finish the race because he hasn't really run that much," Darling said. "So big props to him, this was definitely a team effort.

"I'm standing here getting individual stuff, but those guys made it happen today."

While his teammates' work set the stage, it was Darling that stole the show.

After spending much of the race riding around in fourth and fifth, Mayhew and Darling went with Krause to make it a three-man race with about five laps to go.

Still stuck on Mayhew's shoulder and trailing his teammate, Darling debated on when to make his move. He knew if he waited too long, Mayhew's strong finishing kick would be too much to overcome.

"I said to myself `For Mayhew, it's 800 meters out,'" Darling said. "I couldn't beat him from 300 meters out, he's just a really quick kid, and so I said, `800 meters.'

"I was going to go at the K (one kilometer to go) but I said, `Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,' and then I went at 800 meters," he added. "I made my move and I made it decisive.

"I wanted to take the zap right out of his legs and take that kick out."

The move proved to be the right one, and Mayhew had no answer once Darling changed gears. The defending champ finished more than three seconds back in 29:28.36. Unofficially, Darling covered the final two laps in 2:02.

"Once I came around with 400 meters to go and Coach Nutty (Ed Nuttycombe) said, `You got him, you got him,' I didn't let up off the hammer," he said. "I was like, `Keep going, it's still 400 meters, it's one time around the track and anything can happen.'"

What happened was Darling leaving with the second Big Ten title of his career, one to go along with the 3000 meters crown he claimed indoors in February.

"Today it really hit home to me. You're a Big Ten champion and this is what you came to Wisconsin for," he said. "To win these team titles, I've done that. To win a national championship, I've done that. To finally get a little bit of that individual success is pretty cool for me."

Career day has Ziemek out front in decathlon
While Darling finished fast, sophomore Zach Ziemek was strong out of the gate Friday en route to building a sizeable first-day lead in the decathlon.

Ziemek holds the lead halfway through the 10-discipline event after racking up a score of 4,105 points on the first day of competition. He has a 248-point cushion on defending champion Bjorn Barrefors of Nebraska, who is just ahead of UW redshirt freshman Charlie Foss.

An outstanding day has Foss third with 3,830 points, while teammate and fellow redshirt freshman Ben Schreib sits 10th at 3,730 - just 100 points out of third place.

The Badgers each posted personal-best marks in the 100 meters, long jump and 400 meters.

It was the fast start in the 100 and long jump that got ZIemek rolling.

"The long jump is a huge key for me to get rolling and then the other events," Ziemek said. "After long jump, I feel comfortable with the points and everything, and then I just kind of go from there."

His personal-best leap of 25 feet, 1 1/4 inches had him feeling very comfortable, especially on the heels of a lifetime-best run of 10.60 seconds to start the day. While he underperformed in the high jump and shot put, another stellar effort in the 400 meters provided plenty of momentum for the final five events Saturday.

Ziemek closed out the first day by running a lifetime-best 50.46.

"I kind of fell of a little bit in the high jump, but I was able to make it up in the 400," he said. "I was just happy to go out there and PR again, and now I have to carry the momentum into tomorrow."

Also Friday, UW sophomore Scott Erickson put down a tremendous mark but still, somehow, walked away empty handed from a highly-competitive men's hammer throw. Erickson launched for a mark of 197-0 that easily topped his own school record but left him in ninth place -- one spot out of scoring range.

Competition resumes Saturday with the decathlon 110 hurdles at 8:30 a.m. (CT).

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