June 8, 2013
• Results | Darling Interivew | Connor Interview | Mudd Interview | Photo Gallery
EUGENE, Ore. -- Maverick Darling and Austin Mudd left Hayward Field with identical trophies, but their paths to the podium certainly looked different.
Darling and Mudd were among the three Badgers that took spots on the podium Saturday as the No. 13-ranked Wisconsin men’s track and field concluded the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Darling, a senior, closed out his Badgers career with a fourth-place effort in the 5000 meters -- matching his showing in the event indoors -- while junior Reed Connor came home sixth.
Mudd backed up his third-place finish in the NCAA indoor mile by taking fourth to earn All-America laurels in the 1500 meters.
Darling’s time of 13:44.56 is the third-fastest 5000 meters time by a UW athlete at the NCAA championships and made him the 16th All-America in the event in school history. Connor was just behind to become UW’s 17th All-American in the 5000, clocking in at a season-best 13:50.70.
Arizona junior Lawi Lalang won the national title in 13:35.19, followed by UNC-Greensboro junior Paul Chelimo in 13:40.41 and Northern Arizona senior Diego Estrada in 13:42.27.
“My type of race,” Darling said. “An honest race. I really enjoyed that.”
Darling was the top-finishing American in the race, a distinction he also earned by finishing 11th in cross country and fourth in the indoor 5000 meters this year, as well.
Connor earned a spot on the podium for the first time in his Badgers career.
When the leaders made a move after a slow start to the race, Darling waited a couple laps before striking out to reel them in.
“I said, ‘I’m feeling good, not great, but I’m feeling good enough to go after those guys’ and I went after them,” Darling said.
Striking out alone, he slowly made up the gap to move into fifth and eventually picked off another spot to fourth.
“I slowly, slowly (made up) that gap and caught a couple guys here and there and fought my way through that whole 5K.”
Connor chose not to go with his teammate and instead settled in around eighth place. Once the pace slacked a bit in the race’s late stages, however, he used his fitness to pick off a couple more spots and move into sixth.
Mudd out-kicked the field in the 1500, but he needed every bit of his fantastic final lap after slipping back and losing touch with the rest of the field by the bell lap.
“With 400 to go I had to swing to the back of the pack and go out wide to try to pass everyone,” said Mudd, who was stuck inside on the rail for much of the race. “That has to be the fastest I’ve closed the last 400 meters this season.
“I was working so hard. I wanted to get that top-three finish.”
That would have matched his effort indoors, when he ran a school-record time of 3:57.93 to take third place. Mudd was the lone athlete to earn All-America honors in both the mile and its outdoor equivalent this year.
He also again led the way for the Big Ten, which placed four athletes in the top 10, including three All-Americans in Mudd, Robby Creese of Penn State (sixth) and defending champion Andy Bayer of Indiana (eighth).
Homestanding Oregon junior Mac Fleet won the national title in 3:50.25, with Air Force’s Zach Perkins second in 3:50.39 and Oklahoma’s Patrick Casey third in 3:50.60.
UW has produced at least one All-American in the 1500 in six of the last seven years, with Mudd’s effort the ninth overall All-America honor in that span.
Wisconsin’s four All-America performances -- including junior Danny Block’s sixth-place showing in the discus on Wednesday -- added up to 16 points and a tie for 15th in the team standings.
Combined with UW’s runner-up showing in cross country and third-place finish at the NCAA indoor track championships, the effort will place the Badgers second in the John McDonnell Program of the Year standings.
UW’s cumulative score of 21 points (one point for each finishing position at the three NCAA championship meets) puts the Badgers behind Arkansas, which wrapped up a third-place outdoor finish Saturday.
The Razorbacks were also 10th in cross country and won the national championship in indoor, giving them a total score of 14 points and the Program of the Year award, which is presented annually by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.