June 12, 2014
• Results | Results | Photo Gallery | Lihrman Interview | Brill Interview
EUGENE, Ore.--Michael Lihrman has made a habit this season of breaking records, with the junior shattering marks not only at Wisconsin, but at the Big Ten and national level.
Lihrman toppled his own Big Ten record in the hammer throw on Thursday at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships, as he finished third with a throw of 233 feet, 9 inches to not only earn All-America honors, but also give Wisconsin six team points.
Along with Zach Ziemek in the decathlon, Lihrman's was one of two record-setting, All-America-caliber performances for the No. 16-ranked Badgers on the second day of competition at Hayward Field. Wisconsin stands fourth in the team standings with 16 points.
"I couldn't be much happier. I was sick the past week and was trying to recover before today," Lihrman said. "I recovered enough and the adrenaline really helped. I had a PR and I couldn't be much happier."
Lihrman unleashed his record-breaking heave on his second throw of the competition and trailed only Oklahoma State's Nick Miller, who had a toss of 237-6, heading into the three-throw final round.
Miller and Lihrman were 1-2 heading into their final attempts, with Lihrman knowing he needed a huge throw after Kent State's Matthias Tayala took the lead with a massive heave of 241-4.
Lihrman accomplished that with an effort beyond 236 feet, but the junior was called for a foul and settled for third in the meet behind Tayala and Miller.
"I fouled my last one, just barely," Lihrman said. "The throw felt pretty good, and I can't wait for the USA championships in a few weeks."
"He put it all the line today," UW director of track and field and cross country Mick Byrne said of Lihrman. "He arguably had the best series among all the competitors with four throws over 70 meters. He did a great job and today he was third. Losing to those guys, Tayala and Miller, is nothing to be ashamed of. Those two are great athletes and competitors, as is Michael.
"He's had a heck of a year this year and for him to take third today is awesome."
The Rice Lake, Wisconsin, native became only the fourth Badger to earn All-America honors in the hammer, and the first since Arthur Frisch in 1931.
Lihrman will cap off his junior campaign at the 2014 USA Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, California, June 26-29. He's already won UW's first individual national title since 2007, set the NCAA Division I record in the weight throw and never finished lower than third at a competition while winning eight events during the indoor and outdoor seasons.
"I think it's been fantastic," Lihrman said. "I have broken plenty of records, I broke both Big Ten records, the Division I record in the weight throw and the only thing I couldn't get was that outdoor national title."
Record-breaking performance helps Ziemek to third All-America honor
Hours after Lihrman toppled his own school record in the hammer throw, Ziemek dethroned Joe Detmer atop the Badgers' all-time list in the decathlon en route to a fifth-place showing and All-America laurels.
Ziemek finished the 10-discipline event with 7,981 points, breaking Detmer's school record of 7,963 set at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
"Double Z" earned his third All-America honor in the multi-events, though he was hoping for a better placing on the big stage.
"I'm a little disappointed where I placed in the standings, but I can't complain as I got a school record today," Ziemek said. "There's been some great multi athletes here, and to get the record is sweet."
Georgia's Maicel Uibo won the title with a score of 8,182 points, while defending champion Johannes Hock of Texas was second with 8,092. Oregon's Dakotah Keys won the 1500 meters, the final event of the day, to finish third at 8,068 while Garrett Scantling of Georgia finished just ahead of Ziemek with 7,984 points.
Starting the second day of the competition in second place, Ziemek opened up in the 110 hurdles with a time of 15.00 seconds. His time was five hundredths of a second off his lifetime best of 14.95 set at the Big Ten championships earlier this season.
In the discus, Ziemek had the event's fifth-best throw at 144-2, but Hock won the event with a toss of 160-7.
The Badgers junior retook the overall decathlon lead in the pole vault after surviving a few scares in the process. On his opening height of 14-9, Ziemek missed his first two attempts, setting up a pivotal third attempt which he needed to clearance to stay in the race. He nicked the bar on his way over, but it managed to stay up.
Ziemek matched Kevin Lazas of Arkansas for the day's best clearance, as the duo both cleared 16-8 3/4, which earned them 941 points.
That meant that, heading into the javelin, Ziemek held a 53-point lead on Hock.
Ziemek unleashed a throw of 176-10, but Keys won the event with a throw of 223-8 and Hock, Uibo and Scantling all earned better marks than Ziemek to tighten things up heading into the 1500 meters.
Ziemek wrapped up the meet with a personal-best 4:57.29 in the 1500 meters, but it wasn't enough to make up ground on the leaders.
"Double Z had a heck of a meet," Byrne said. "He was almost perfect across the board and you can't ask for more than that. Going into the last event he was in the mix. It ended with the 1500 meters, a grueling event which seems to be his Achilles heel. I'm sure he will learn from it and will come back with a vengeance."
Ziemek became UW's seventh All-American in the decathlon, joining Louis HInshaw, James Dunkleberger, Greg Gill, Ryan Tremelling, Ashraf Fadel and Detmer.
It also marks the third time Ziemek has finished fifth at a national meet, as he was fifth in the heptathlon at both the 2013 and 2014 NCAA indoor championships.
Brill punches ticket to steeplechase final
Senior Alex Brill has accomplished a lot during his Wisconsin career, winning a Big Ten title in 2013 and running the school's 10th-best time in the steeplechase of 8:37.62.
One item still left on Brill's to-do list is to earn All-America honors after earning second-team accolades last year with a 14th-place finish.
"My senior class has had a few All-Americans including Mohammed Ahmed, Reed Connor and Danny Block, and I've always wanted to join that group," Brill said.
Brill earned the opportunity to race for first-team honors by finishing fifth in his semifinal heat to earn an automatic spot in Saturday's 4:57 p.m. steeplechase final.
"My coach, Gavin Kennedy, told me to shoot for a top-five finish," Brill said. "That was the goal of the prelims, nothing more and nothing less. It was simple plan.
"This is the third time that I've been at this meet and I felt confident going in. I got the fifth place and I was excited for that."
Brill was in the thick of things off the gun and remained in the top group throughout the race. With a lap to go, Brill accelerated into the top four but had to turn on the jets during the last 100 meters to earn the final automatic spot.
"Right before the last lap when I moved up, I was pretty happy right there," Brill said. "Two guys came up on my left and right on the final straightaway, and I had to outkick them to earn that fifth spot."
Brill finished in 8:44.01, which happened to be the day's fifth-fastest time. Defending NCAA champion Anthony Rotich of UTEP posted the top mark at 8:39.76.
"It was a great race by Brill," Byrne said. "It was a tough night, the wind was howling during his race. He showed his maturity, his experience. You could tell he has been here before and he didn't want to end his Wisconsin career tonight. He showed it in the last 200 meters and we're proud of him."
The top eight runners in Saturday's final earn first-team All-America accolades, which is Brill's goal heading into the race.
"It's my last season," he said. "I've never been (All-America) and it is one of those standards that Wisconsin Badgers hit. It's something that I want to do before I leave here."