AUSTIN, Texas -- The No. 9-ranked Wisconsin men's track and field team finalized its roster for the national championships Saturday at the 2013 NCAA West Preliminary Round in Austin, Texas.
The Badgers advanced four more athletes through to the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships, set for June 5-8 in Eugene, Ore. The duos of sophomores Austin Mudd and Alex Hatz in the 1500 meters and senior Maverick Darling and junior Reed Connor in the 5000 meters secured national meet spots on the final day of preliminary-round competition.
Wisconsin will send a contingent of seven athletes to the NCAA championships, with the four additions from Saturday's competition joining junior Alex Brill (3000 steeplechase), junior Danny Block (shot put) and sophomore Zach Ziemek (decathlon).
In the 1500 meters, Mudd raced from the back of the pack to a runner-up finish in his heat over the final 400 meters, finishing in a time of 3:44.87. Hatz also made a move late and took third in his section, finishing in 3:49.35. The top five finishers in each heat automatically advanced, along with the fastest two overall times.
"It was a fun race to be in, but coming into these things, you never know what to expect," Hatz said. "My plan was to get out, be up front and, if it went too slow, I was going to take the lead. But we were out slow and, fortunately, someone else took it and I was just kind of able to sit in the pack.
"It really didn't pick up too much. We just kind of jostled around and I kind of worked my way out of it. With about 300 meters to go, I was in a good position and just held on."
Senior Rob Finnerty saw his collegiate career come to an end just short of the finish line in Heat 1, when he took a fall just steps from the finish and took 11th in 3:52.72.
In the 5000 meters, Darling was in good position when the leaders made their final move with just under 1 kilometer to go. The Big Ten 10,000 meters champion covered the final mile in an extremely fast 4:13 to hold on to the fifth and final automatic qualifying spot.
"The field is just absolutely amazing," Darling said. "Running here and getting through, you're going to leave some guys (behind). In my heat, some people ran really well, have been running really well, and they're going home. That says something with the depth in the West (Region) in the distance races.
"This is my third time in Texas," he added. "I missed the first two times, I was always one spot out, so I'm just happy to be walking away with a spot right now."
Connor let the first four in his heat break away and grabbed the fifth-place finish he needed with a late push into fifth place 100 meters out from the finish. Connor - the Big Ten runner-up at 5000 meters -- crossed the line in 13:51.09.
"That's very important for me because this season almost didn't happen," Connor said. "I got hurt in February. In March, didn't run for a month, so I was throwing together some races. I think my first race this season was at 3:59 for the 1500 (meters) and that's about all I had in my legs, so that was a month ago and it's just starting to click.
"Hopefully it's the same story at nationals."
Saturday Results Men's 1500 Meters - Quarterfinal 3. Austin Mudd (3:44.87) - advanced to NCAA championships 6. Alex Hatz (3:49.35) - advanced to NCAA championships 23. Rob Finnerty (3:52.72)