Feb. 8, 2013
MADISON, Wis. – Don’t look now, but it’s quickly becoming crunch time for the Badgers.
The always-compressed indoor calendar means that, even though it seems to have just started, the “regular season” is coming to a close for the No. 15-ranked Wisconsin men’s track and field team.
With just two weeks remaining before the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Championships, the Badgers crank up the competition once again this weekend by heading to a pair of high-profile meets.
UW’s distance group is in Seattle for the annual Husky Classic, while a number of sprinters and field-event athletes will compete in the Cyclone Classic in Ames, Iowa. A limited number of Badgers also are scheduled to compete close to home at the UW-Platteville Invitational.
The Husky Classic headlines the weekend nationally for the distance events, and the Badgers will be well-represented on the oversized track inside the University of Washington’s Dempsey Indoor.
The list of competitors features a dozen top-25 teams, including No. 1 Arkansas and No. 2 Florida, as well as ranked Big Ten foes Minnesota (No. 8) and Penn State (No. 13).
They’ll be racing on a 307-meter track that is regarded as one of the fastest ovals in the country.
Three Badgers will compete in one of the meet’s premier events, the invitational 5000 meters, which begins at 7:30 p.m. (CT) Friday. Junior Mohammed Ahmed and seniors Maverick Darling and Elliot Krause are each entered in an invitational section of the 5000 meters and will face a host of strong collegians.
Teammates Michael Brice and Brian Leung are set to run in an open section of the 5000.
Ahmed, making his season debut, will compete indoors for the first time since the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships after redshirting last season in preparation for a run at qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games. A few months ago, the four-time All-American helped lead the UW cross country team to a runner-up finish at 2012 NCAA Championship by finishing eighth overall.
A week removed from an impressive win in the prestigious Meyo Mile -- which saw him become the fifth Badger to break the four-minute barrier -- reigning Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week Austin Mudd will compete in a special invitational section of the 800 meters.
His competition includes Penn State senior Ricky West, who ranks eighth nationally at 1:48.92, as well as professionals Tyler Mulder and Mark Wieczorek. Mulder was fifth and Wieczorek seventh in the 800 at the 2012 USA Olympic Trials.
Junior Alex Hatz, who owns UW’s school record at 3:58.68, will make his season debut in the mile as part of a loaded invitational section. Headlining Hatz’s competition is former Badger and 2012 Olympian Evan Jager, along with noted pros Donn Cabral and Andrew Bumbalough. Collegiate standouts Robby Creese of Penn State and Kyle Merber of Texas add to the challenge.
Senior Rob Finnerty faces a similar challenge in the invitational 3000 meters, which boasts a mix of elite professionals and collegians, while sophomore Michael Van Voorhis will race an open section of the 3000.
The Wisconsin sprinters will also compete against a competitive field in Ames, Iowa, at the Cyclone Classic, which includes three top-25 teams in No. 8 Minnesota, No. 14 Nebraska and No. 21 Kansas State.
The meet begins Friday with field events at 11 a.m., and running events at noon. The competition resumes on Saturday with both field events and track events at 11 a.m.
Wisconsin will once again load up the 400 meters, as six Badgers are scheduled to run. The 200 meters will feature four Badgers, including junior Babatunde Awosika, sophomores Garret Payne and Aaron Thompson and senior Matt Kerswill.
Wisconsin will also have a pair of entries in the 4x400 relay. The ‘A’ team will feature three of the four runners that helped run a season-best time of 3 minutes, 11.31 seconds at the Meyo Invitational last week. The group returns Payne, Awosika and junior Tyler Woloszyk. Sophomore Drew Simmons will replace senior Grant Bughman.