Feb. 6, 2014
Meet Central | @BadgerTrack
MADISON, Wis. -- Championship season is quickly approaching for the No. 5-ranked Wisconsin men's track and field team.
To help prepare for the increased level of competition in the coming weeks, the Badgers will head east to New York to compete in the prestigious Armory Collegiate Invitational, which was selected as this week's U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division I National Meet of the Week.
The meet, which features a fast 200-meter banked track, will host more than 100 colleges and universities, including No. 1 Arkansas, No. 8 Arizona, No. 10 Alabama, No. 14 Cornell, No. 15 Mississippi State, No. 21 Mississippi and No. 25 BYU.
"We are excited to take the team to New York for the Armory Collegiate Invitational and to a meet of this caliber," Director of Track and Cross Country Mick Byrne said. "It is going to be a fantastic meet and there are a lot of major programs competing. It is going to be very competitive, a lot of our kids got into the top championship sections and the intensity certainly kicks up a couple of notches from the last three weeks."
The Badgers will bring their most talented roster to The Big Apple, as a trio of All-Americans in Mohammed Ahmed, Austin Mudd and Reed Connor will make their season debut, while Japheth Cato, Zach Ziemek, Danny Block and Michael Lihrman are also scheduled to compete.
"We are going to be faced with some great competition four weeks down the road at the Big Ten," Byrne said. "It is now time for our big guns to step up, be the leaders on the team and show the younger kids what it's like and how to compete at a big meet like this."
The Invitational begins Friday at 8:30 a.m. (CT) with the women's 3000 meters and the championship section of the shot put. The highlights of the day will likely come from the championship section of a pair of field events and the distance medley relay.
At 1:15 p.m., senior Danny Block will compete in the shot put, an event in which he holds the school record (65 feet, 7 1/2 inches), won the Big Ten indoor title and finished third at the NCAA indoor championships. Two hours later, senior Japheth Cato and junior Zach Ziemek will face off in the long jump, an event they will see later this season in the heptathlon when they attempt to earn All-America honors for the second year in a row at the NCAA indoor championships.
Friday evening, All-Americans Reed Connor and Austin Mudd will make their season debut by joining Babatunde Awosika and Carl Hirsch at 5:05 p.m. for the distance medley relay.
Other championship races of note include junior Michael Van Voorhis in the 5000 meters, Awosika and junior Garret Payne in the 400 meters, and sophomore cross country standout Malachy Schrobilgen in the 1000 meters. This fall, Schrobilgen won the Big Ten title and earned All-America honors.
On Saturday, competition resumes at 7:30 a.m. with the women's 5000 meters and high jump. At 12:45 p.m., Michael Lihrman will attempt to win the weight throw, an event in which he holds the school record (74-7 3/4). An hour later, Cato and Ziemek will square off once again in preparation for the heptathlon, this time in the pole vault. Ziemek is the top vaulter in UW history, clearing 17-8 1/2 at last year's NCAA indoor championships.
On the track, the notable race of the day will come from the championship 3000 meters, where 2012 Canadian Olympian and five-time All-American Mohammed Ahmed will compete alongside Connor in their first individual event of 2014.
In addition, Mudd will also make his debut in an individual event, as he is scheduled to race in both championship sections of the 800 meters and the mile Saturday afternoon. The junior had a breakout campaign in 2013, earning first-team All-America honors in the mile in a school-record 3 minutes, 57.93 seconds at the NCAA championships, while also finishing runner-up at the Big Ten meet in the 800 meters.
Despite the accomplishments and accolades of Ahmed, Connor and Mudd, Byrne cautions the trio about overexertion and his goal is to ease them into the track season, starting with this weekend.
"It is about getting the rust off," Byrne said. "Each of them are going to compete in a couple events this weekend. We want them to get their racing legs under them. We are not going in there looking for fast times, that is to come down the road. We want them to get the spikes back on and be competitive."