May 16, 2014
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-- A déjà vu performance in the men's 10,000 meters gave the No. 14 Wisconsin men's track and field team an early lead at the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships at Rankin Track on Friday.
After sweeping the top three spots in the men's 5000 meters to win the indoor conference title earlier this year, the Badgers earned a similar sweep in the 10,000 thanks to outstanding performances by Reed Connor, Mohammed Ahmed and Michael Van Voorhis that propelled the Badgers to a huge lead in the team standings after Day 1.
Led by the 24 collected by Connor, Ahmed and Van Voorhis, the Badgers boast a team score of 32 points -- 20 more than second-place Michigan -- with two days of competition remaining.
Connor won his third Big Ten title and his second outdoor crown by crossing the line in 29 minutes, 6.10 seconds, with Ahmed right behind in 29:06.60 and Van Voorhis on his heels in 29:06.65.
"All of us were cold," Connor said. "It's a 10K so it's a mind thing. You just try to relax your mind the entire time and you get there and all of a sudden there are two laps to go. Almost everyone, I didn't necessarily look behind me, but it looked like there was a lot of people still in that race and I knew two of those other guys were my teammates.
"I don't really feel like I won, I feel like the Badgers won. It was a special moment. Whenever you're an athlete you want to do well as an individual, but whenever your team can do well and everyone does well together, that's just a great team moment for the Badgers."
Ahmed and Connor ran in the top five throughout the 25-lap race, but Van Voorhis worked his way up from 10th to the front of the pack over the final few laps to put the Badgers in position for the sweep.
"We are looking to bring home the team title," Connor said. "For the distance guys, that means we have to do our part. It didn't mean that we had to go 1-2-3 today, but it certainly doesn't hurt."
Connor and Van Voorhis both set personal bests in the event, and the trio's times each rank in the top 30 in the country.
"Any time you go 1-2-3 in the conference meet, it is exciting," UW Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Mick Byrne said. "I am very happy for our guys. Mo Ahmed and Reed Connor, you put them on the track and you expect to see good things from them. They are used to carrying the team and they are excited to score points. What a run by Michael Van Voorhis in his first ever competitive 10,000 meters. To end up third in the conference, that's a good job."
Zach Ziemek, the defending Big Ten champion in the decathlon, also shined during the first day of the conference meet. The junior leads the event with a score of 4,041 points through 5 of 10 events.
Ziemek started his day off strong, winning both the 100 meters and the long jump to take an early lead in the overall standings. He clocked a time of 10.81 seconds in the 100, while soaring 23 feet, 8 3/4 inches in the long jump. Ziemek followed those performances with a third-place showing in the shot put (42-2 1/4) and a tie for second in the high jump (6-6 3/4). He ended the day placing second in the 400 with a time of 51.12.
Charlie Foss is in fifth after the first day with a score of 3,706. The sophomore won his section of the 100 in 11.14 before jumping 23 feet in the long jump to set a PR in the event. He placed fifth in the shot put with a heave of 40-11 3/4 and fifth in the high jump with a clearance of 6-3 1/4. Foss ended the day with a time of 52.55 in the 400.
For the first time all season, junior Michael Lihrman was bested by a collegiate competitor, as the Rice Lake native finished second in the hammer throw with a heave of 213-9, which he attained on his first throw. Purdue's Chukwuebuka Enekwechi won with a toss of 217-3.
The Badgers also had to deal with less than ideal competition, as constant rain moved the men's pole vault originally scheduled for Friday to 4 p.m. (CT) on Saturday and also caused a delay in the decathlon.
Ziemek and Foss will open up competition for the Badgers in the decathlon 110 hurdles Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (CT), while senior Japheth Cato will compete in the long jump at 2:20 p.m. The first event on the track for UW will be the preliminary round of the 4x100 relay at 3:20 p.m.