May 24, 2012
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AUSTIN, Texas -- By responding well to something he'd seen before, Elliot Krause is headed somewhere he's never been.
The Wisconsin junior anticipated the move that was coming midway through the men's 10,000 meters Thursday at the 2012 NCAA Preliminary Round and responded with a performance over the closing laps that has him headed to the NCAA outdoor championships for the first time.
Krause clocked in at 30:16.61 for 10th place, while teammate Ryan Collins missed out on an NCAA berth by the narrowest of margins. He came home 13th in a race that sends its top 12 finishers to the national meet.
With a massive, 48-man field running in a single heat, a danger exists for runners who drift back in the pack to get left behind when the leaders decide to pick up the pace. It's something Krause has been on the short end of before -- and something he leaned on his experience to help avoid Thursday.
"I've gotten caught back there before," Krause said. "That's why today I stayed right there to make sure that once there was a move I was going to be able to go with it."
Last year, the season leader at 10,000 meters missed out on an NCAA berth because he lost touch with the front runners at the preliminary round.
"I got caught behind that move and I was able to go with it last year but it's just a lot tougher to move around a lot of people and then hang right on the back," he said. "So this year I put a real main focus on making sure I was ready to be right in the middle of that move when it went."
This time, "the move" when Oregon's Luke Puskedra kicked up the pace with 12 laps remaining in the 25-lap race that had started very slowly.
"When we're running that slow at the start of the race I knew it was going to pick up at some point, so I was just trying to get ready for it," Krause said. "We went and everything kind of single-filed out for two or three laps, and then there was another move where I think five guys or so broke away.
"That second move I couldn't really go with, but I made sure I hopped on that first move."
That was enough to keep Krause among the all-important top dozen, although he did employ a healthy kick over the final 200 meters to secure his spot.
"Two and a half months ago I was definitely not expecting to kick my way into nationals," he said. "It's a little bit of a surprise."
Based on how confident and in control junior Rob Finnerty looked as he paced the opening heat of the men's 1500 meters, the fact that he emerged as the top seed for Saturday's quarterfinals came as no surprise.
Finnerty won the opening section in 3:45.98 to automatically advance and set the tone for the event.
Sophomore Reed Connor, on the other hand, had to turn to his trademark -- the open-handed arm pumping known among the Badgers simply as "The Blades" -- to finish sixth in his heat and eek out a qualifying spot based on his time of 3:50.55.
In the end, the result was the same. Both Badgers will look to race their way on to the NCAA outdoor championships Saturday.
"I didn't want to screw around and I knew there weren't five guys in that field that could beat me if I ran my race," Finnerty said. "It worked."
While Finnerty quickly turned his attention to what comes next -- "It was just about taking care of business today," he said -- Connor considered his close call a beneficial lesson.
"As confident as I am in 'The Blades' they can only do so much in this kind of race," he said, referring to his trademark open-handed arm pumping known among the Badgers simply as "The Blades." "I have to come out here on Saturday and run a strong race from the front and then rely on 'The Blades' after that.
"Racing 1500 meters is different in the championship style and I'm learning a lot," he added. "I've got to keep on learning or the season's going to be over real quick."
A time of 1:49.76 got him into the next round -- and one race away from an NCAA championships ticket -- but the way in which Austin Mudd achieved it turned some heads.
With what is becoming a characteristic late-race kick, Mudd closed on the lead down the final 100 meters of the race and reeled in Charles Jock of UC Irvine, the NCAA leader at 800 meters.
Mudd finished alongside the senior and was briefly given credit for winning the heat before official timing showed him to be just three-hundredths of a second slower than Jock.
The performance meant an automatic spot in the quarterfinals, but it also meant a little more to Mudd.
"It's a confidence-builder," Mudd said. "I was kicking, I was going all-out and I was inching ahead of everyone a little bit, so that defintely helps my confidence coming down the homestretch."
Mudd faced a difficult question in whether to run the 800 meters or 1500 meters at the preliminary round, as he boasted strong national marks in both events. Thursday, he learned that he and assistant coach Mick Byrne made the right call by choosing the 800.
"I learned to not psych myself out or think about the race too much," Mudd said of the race. "I was three-hundredths of a second behind (Charles) Jock, the NCAA leader. I just need to remind myself that I can run with these guys and put that to work out on the track."
The final Badger to advance Thursday is also a true freshman who gained some important experience. Garret Payne, also a member of UW's 4x400-meter relay team that will run Saturday, moved on to Friday's quarterfinals of the 400 meters by running a time of 47.23.
The mark placed Payne fourth in his heat and was enough to place him among the nine fastest times that fell outside those that automatically advanced by finishing in the top three of each section.