EUGENE, Ore. -- The stage is set for more Mudd magic.
Wisconsin sophomore Austin Mudd did what he needed to Thursday in the semifinals of the 1500 meters. Now he’ll have the chance to get what he wants -- another podium finish -- when the final race is run Saturday.
A fourth-place finish in his semifinal heat powered Mudd to an automatic qualifying spot in the final, where -- as he proved indoors -- anything can happen.
As is his custom, Mudd ran near the back of the pack early and steadily moved his way up while waiting to make his move. This time, it came with 150 meters to go, as he broke outside and picked off five spots while running the race’s final curve.
By the time Mudd hit the homestretch, he was part of a six-wide sprint for the finish. He held on to take fourth in a season-best 3 minutes, 41.47 seconds.
“It was a quicker race, so it was a surprise to see that many guys there with 400 and 200 to go,” Mudd said. “I made my move at 150 and everyone was still in the race.
“Coming down the homestretch, I was running as fast as I could and there were guys all around me.”
Oregon’s Mac Fleet won the heat in 3:41.21 and is the top seed for the 12-man final, which also includes defending champion Andy Bayer of Indiana.
It will be asking a lot for a repeat of the gutsy, school-record run of 3:57.93 he turned in to take third in a dramatic mile finale at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships in March. But if there’s one thing Mudd has proven in his first two years at Wisconsin, it’s never count him out.
“It shows that anything can happen,” Mudd said. “I didn’t think I was in shape at all to get third at the indoor national meet and I did.
“Hopefully it’s the same here for the final.”
Alex Hatz made a similar late push to the front in Heat 2, but the sophomore saw a chance at his first NCAA final come up just short. After working his way up the rail and into the fifth and final automatic qualifying position, Hatz was nipped at the line by Texas’ Patrick McGregor.
Hatz finished sixth in 3:44.48, but the two qualifiers who advanced on time both came out of the much faster first section, with Minnesota’s John Simons running 3:41.73 and Oklahoma’s Patrick Casey clocking in at 3:41.93.
That wasn’t the only unfortunate finish to follow a strong start for the Badgers on Thursday, as an injury forced sophomore Zach Ziemek to withdraw from the decathlon after nine events had been completed.
Ziemek opened his day with a run of 15.21 seconds in the 100 hurdles and remained sixth overall, following that effort with a throw of 136-3 in the discus that saw him slip to 11th despite remaining on personal-best pace through seven events.
He helped his cause with a solid performance in the pole vault, clearing 16-4 3/4 to tie for the fifth-best mark in the competition. He cleared 15-9 on his second attempt and then passed to 16-4 3/4, a bar he cleared on his final attempt to add 61 points to his total.
That moved him up ninth in the standings and left him just seven points back of eighth place -- and an All-America award -- with only the javelin and 1500 meters remaining.
Fouls on his first two attempts in the javelin made for a dramatic third throw, but Ziemek came through with a mark of 164-10 that left him in 10th place. Unfortunately, that was where his day ended, however.
A leg injury that had progressively gotten worse over the course of the day became unbearable and left Ziemek with no choice but to withdraw from the competition prior to the 1500.
It was an unfortunate end to a day that saw Ziemek keep up a career-best pace to the end and also saw a record six competitors top the 8,000-point plateau.
Texas freshman Johannes Hock won the national title with a score of 8,267 points, followed by Washington senior Jeremy Taiwo (8,239 points), UCLA junior Marcus Nilsson (8,104), Texas senior Isaac Murphy (8,086), Georgia freshman Maicel Uibo (8017) and Texas-Arlington senior Romain Martin (8,013).