March 7, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Wisconsin will send seven athletes from its No. 4-ranked men's track and field team to Fayetteville, Ark.,, to compete in the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships this Friday and Saturday at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
Seven Badgers have qualified for the NCAA championships and will be represented by nine entries in six different events. Only top-ranked Arkansas (19) and No. 2 Florida (11) have more entries than Wisconsin, which matched Oregon and Texas A&M for the third-largest contingent of athletes in the meet with nine.
The Badgers will be led by junior Japheth Cato, who is enters as the top seed in the heptathlon. Cato, who is also entered in the long jump, ranks No. 2 on the NCAA list and third among Americans this season in the heptathlon with his Big Ten-record score of 6,090 points. The mark ranks as the eighth best in the world this year.
The three-time defending Big Ten heptathlon champion is competing at the indoor championships for a third-consecutive season. He earned All-America honors after finishing runner-up in the event at last year's NCAA meet with 6,082 points -- the highest non-winning total in NCAA meet history.
The junior owns three of the top 13 heptathlon performances in NCAA history, including the top five scores in Big Ten annals. This weekend, he can become the first collegian to top the 6,000-point plateau four times in a career. Only Cato and former Oregon national champion Ashton Eaton have three scores of 6,000-plus.
"He's been very consistent, and I think he's very ready to go," said UW head coach Ed Nuttycombe, who directly coaches the Badgers' multi-event athletes. "We're just going to go and see what happens."
Sophomore Zach Ziemek will compete alongside Cato in the heptathlon. Ziemek, making his first NCAA indoor championship appearance, heads into the NCAAs ranked sixth with 5,846 points. The total was good for second place, behind Cato, at the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Championships and makes him the second-best performer in UW history.
"Ranked sixth as a sophomore, that's pretty incredible," Nuttycombe said. "We've talked about just going out and having fun and competing. He's a great competitor."
Junior Danny Block and senior Elliot Krause will also be making their first NCAA indoor championship appearances, competing in the shot put and 5000 meters, respectively. The duo both qualified for NCAA competition outdoors in 2012, with Block earning second-team All-America honors in the discus and Krause earning All-America honors with a sixth-place showing in the 10,000 meters.
Block, the Big Ten shot put champion two weeks ago, broke his own school record for the second time this season with a throw of 63 feet, 7 3/4 inches at the conference meet. The junior was a single centimeter short of qualifying for last year's NCAA indoor meet.
"Danny is primed and ready to go, very excited," Nuttycombe said.
Krause raced his way into the championship field on "Last Chance Weekend" at the Alex Wilson Invitational, finishing second and first among collegians in the 5000 meters in a personal-best time of 13:41.67.
Like Cato, Maverick Darling will also compete in two events this weekend. The senior is entered in both the 3000 meters and 5000 meters.
After an injury-riddled junior year, Darling returns to the NCAA indoor meet with the sixth-fastest time in the 5000 meters at 13:38.71. The senior also claims the eighth-best time in the 3000 meters at 7:50.97, a mark that won the Big Ten title in the event just two weeks ago.
Joining Darling and Krause in the 5000 meters will be teammate Mohammed Ahmed, making Wisconsin the only team to boast three entries in the 5000. The Badgers feature three of the top 10 seeds in the event.
After redshirting last year's indoor season, Ahmed ranks No. 9 in the nation in the 5000 meters at 13:40.43. He is a four-time All-American and a 2012 Olympian for his native Canada.
Both Ahmed and Darling have previously earned first-team All-America honors in the 5000 meters. Darling finished seventh and Ahmed 11th at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships.
"To have three there gives us three shots," Nuttycombe said of the distance trio. "It's nice to be able to run as a pack and have your teammates there, but Mick (distance coach Mick Byrne) has done a great job of preparing those guys as he did in the fall, where, of course, he had them ready to finish runner up at the NCAA championships."
Sophomore Austin Mudd, who had also qualified in the 800 meters, declared to compete in the mile this weekend after running a school-record 3:58.59 at the Alex Wilson Invitational to solidify his qualifying spot last Saturday. Exactly one month earlier, in his first collegiate mile, Mudd won the prestigious Meyo Mile in 3:59.33, the third-fastest mark in school history at the time.
He is the lone collegian to break four minutes in the mile twice this season and one of five Americans to achieve the feat this year.
The sophomore became the fifth Badger to break the four-minute barrier in the mile and now owns two of the top four marks in school history.
Mudd is also the two-time defending U.S. junior champion at 1500 meters outdoors. He is a two-time second-team All-American for his finishes in the indoor distance medley relay and outdoor 800 meters as a freshman last season.
The meet begins at 10 a.m. Friday with Cato and Ziemek in the heptathlon. On Saturday, action gets underway at 11 a.m.
A live stream is available at ArkansasRazorbacks.com both Friday and Saturday mornings, while ESPN3 will carry the evening sessions live, with the live webcast beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.
"It's great to have the quality of athletes we have going to the national championships," Nuttycombe said. "They only take 16 per event, so anyone there can place. Anyone can be an All-American. Anyone there can do quite well."