April 3, 2014
MADISON, Wis. – After a week free from competition, the No. 6-ranked Wisconsin men’s track and field team will return to Florida this weekend for the highly-competitive Florida Relays in Gainesville, Fla. after opening the outdoor season two weeks ago at the Walt Disney Open.
The Florida Relays, hosted by the No. 2-ranked Florida Gators at the Percy Beard Track, will run from Thursday to Saturday, however Thursday will be devoted to high school teams only. Collegiate competition begins Friday at noon (CT) with the men’s hammer throw and at 12:35 p.m. with the women’s 100 hurdles. On Saturday, field events resume at 9 a.m. with the women’s hammer throw, while action on the track begins at 11 a.m. with the women’s shuttle hurdle relay.
In addition, UW will also send part of the team to Whitewater, Wis., on Sunday for the Rex Foster Invitational.
The Badgers last competed at the Florida Relays in 2011, and Wisconsin Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Mick Byrne is excited for the opportunity to compete in a prestigious meet early in the outdoor season.
“The Florida Relays is the real start of the outdoor season,” Byrne said. “It’s the type of competition that we are looking for to kick start everything and we will face some great teams there. There is quality across the board in every event, and I think that is what we need.
“Since the indoor NCAA meet, it has been a down period for us, and now it we are trying to show the kids that the outdoor season is here and we are going to start it with quality meets.”
The men’s and women’s track team spent its spring break in Florida for the Walt Disney Open and to train in warm weather. According to Byrne, the trip was a valuable experience.
“Spring break went great down in Florida,” he said. “We had great weather and the kids enjoyed the trip as it gave them an opportunity to get out of the cold weather. We got some fantastic work in. We went there to get some great training in some awesome weather.”
In Florida, seniors Japheth Cato and Danny Block and juniors Austin Mudd and Michael Lihrman will make their 2014 outdoor season debuts.
Cato, who won the indoor Big Ten heptathlon title earlier this season, will not compete in multi-events during the outdoor campaign, and will instead focus on individual events. The senior is entered in the invitational section of the long jump, as well as the pole vault, an event he set the school record in by clearing 18 feet, 2 1/2 inches during the indoor season.
The Badgers will be well represented in the throwing events, with Block competing in the invitational sections of the discus and shot put and Lihrman competing in the invitational section of the hammer throw.
Block earned All-America honors after finishing seventh in the shot put at this year’s indoor championships and sixth at last year’s outdoor meet.
In the hammer throw, All-American Lihrman will look to build off an incredible indoor campaign in which he rewrote the record books for the weight throw. Lihrman won each of the six meets he competed in, including the national championship and Big Ten title, while also setting a new personal, school, facility and NCAA Division I record (79-7 1/2).
Lihrman will participate in the hammer throw for just the fourth time at Wisconsin, and for just the second time donning the cardinal and white. Making his Badgers debut at the 2013 USA Outdoor Championships, the junior placed 12th in the event with a school-record heave of 207-11.
Coach Byrne is anxious to see how Lihrman’s weight throw success indoors translates to the hammer throw outdoors.
“Hopefully the transition from the weight to hammer will be smooth,” Byrne said. “They are two completely different events. I am excited personally to see how he adjusts to the event. It is still early in the season, and you want every meet to be a stepping stone to the next meet. Hopefully we will get some big things from Michael down the road but right now we want him to get a feel for the event.”
Back on the track, Mudd will compete in the 800 meters, an event in which he ranks No. 5 on UW’s all-time list in 1 minute, 47.59 seconds. The last time Mudd competed outdoors, he earned All-America honors by claiming fourth in the 1500 meters at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships.