May 6, 2013
• Watch Nuttycombe Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's track and field head coach Ed Nuttycombe met with the media Monday to discuss his No. 11 Badgers' preparations for this weekend's 2013 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Nuttycombe's remarks can be found below.
NUTTYCOMBE: First, let me say, congratulations to the softball program. It's been great to see the tremendous improvement and the excitement on the hall up there. They're our neighbors on the fourth floor. We're going to be kind of following them from our position over at Columbus on the outdoor Big Ten championship to see how they do.
We're very, very excited about the meet this weekend. We like to think we're one of the teams that has a chance to win. I do think we're in that position. I'm not sure it's going to probably end up being quite as tight as it was indoors in the sense of it's almost incredible when you have five teams within four points at the indoor meet, and we're thankful to have come out on the top side of that.
But it will be a very competitive meet, and I do think there's quite a few teams that have a chance on their given day to be on top. I think we are one of those.
QUESTION: You lost one of the top athletes in the conference in Japheth Cato. First of all, how is he doing, and how do you make up for the points lost with his injury?
NUTTYCOMBE: Obviously, I expected that question at some point. He had surgery on Thursday. The surgery went real well. It will be months before he's back. As far as and he truly is one of the best athletes in the conference, if perhaps not the best overall athlete.
How do you make him up? I'm not sure you can. I'm not sure you do. You just have to hope that all the other athletes are on their game on the day, and you have a B plus or an A minus or better meet and that the other teams that you're kind of in contention with don't have that level of meet.
It does make it much more difficult, but I think that any team that depends upon one athlete is not a very good team, and that's certainly not the case in our situation. I mean, we have four athletes that are leading their respective events, and we'll just have to have everybody it's easy to say step up, but I think we just have to have everybody have a good meet.
QUESTION: Along those lines, you were looking for a guy to fill his spot on the (4x100 relay) and get a couple of guys to kind of audition over the weekend. It's open. Have you figured out who's going to fill his spot, Cato's spot, in the 4x1 at this point?
NUTTYCOMBE: We had two football players take their shoulder pads and helmets off and come out, and they had a great time. Wonderful young men. It was kind of fun to watch them run. They really were very, very excited about it. As far as where they fit in, we'll probably make that decision we leave Wednesday for the meet. We'll probably make that decision between now and then as far as where they'll fit in.
They will travel. They will compete. Whether one or both run on the relay, we'll probably need to get another couple of days in with them, but it was great to see them out there.
We've had over the years a lot of football players do both, and I think we're going to see some of that in the future. Coach Andersen and I have spoken a couple of times on it, and we both agree that having speed wearing the Wisconsin uniform benefits both programs.
QUESTION: You were talking about the four athletes that lead the Big Ten in respective events. Could you tell us about them and the type of seasons they've had to reach those marks.
NUTTYCOMBE: I'll start with one of them, and that's the pole vaulter Japheth Cato. He probably won't finish well in that position. The other three are distance runners. I don't mean to be silly about it. Alex Hatz ran a tremendous time last week in the 1500 meters, and he leads there. Maverick Darling leads in the 5000, and Alex Brill leads in the steeplechase. All of those athletes, although those are probably some of the stronger, if not the strongest events in the conference, at a national level, all of those athletes will be, of course, trying to win a title.
We'll be without Cato in the vault, but we're hoping that Zach Ziemek can maybe step in and help us out a little bit there.
QUESTION: Ed, how did that transpire getting Kenzel Doe and Dezmen Southward to come out last week?
NUTTYCOMBE: I'm not really sure exactly who contacted whom. I know there's some dialogue that took place between their friends on the (track) team. The athletes, they all are one big community, and they hang out. I think that word got out that we were looking for some sprinters. I'm not sure who initiated the exact first contact, but they got in touch with us, and they had spoken with Coach Andersen. He'd given them the green light.
We spoke to them about a week ago today, and they came out and did you know, obviously, you don't get in shape in 10 days or anything. They're pretty talented athletes, and obviously they're not sitting on their cans doing nothing. They're not exactly regular students pulled off the sidewalks of campus. They're pretty fit and pretty athletic.
So we worked a little bit last week. We felt that perhaps maybe keeping them out of the relay initially was probably a good thing just so that they didn't have that pressure of having to do something they really haven't done in quite a few years, which is carry the baton and exchange it. Pretty much anybody, to different degrees, can run when the gun goes off to the finish line, but carrying a baton is a little more intricate and needs a little more refinement.
So it was I think what I saw after the meet and during the course of last week was how really excited they were to be out there. They were having a lot of fun. The athletes on our team really embraced them, and it was a wonderful addition.
QUESTION: How freakish was Cato's injury? Have you seen many like that? Some of that's associated with older guys like us trying to compete, that kind of energy?
NUTTYCOMBE: That is true. Fortunately, I have not experienced that personally. I think probably the oddest thing about it was, if I could demonstrate to you and I will verbally but if I could do that and tell you how it happened, he's standing at the beginning of the runway. He'd had a tremendous long jump day. He had already pole vaulted the highest he had in his life. He ran a leg in the 4x1 relay, and he just had a tremendous meet.
He's standing, and it literally is the last thing he's going to do in the meet. And he was on his third jump at 17 feet, 9 inches, and he's standing there, and the crowd starts clapping. And he rocks back. He's standing with both feet together. He steps back onto his right foot to start his approach, and when he stepped back, it (his Achilles tendon) snapped.
I was down by the pole vault pit. So I did not hear it, but the people who were back down by the runway said they heard the pop. So it is rather unusual. It does happen to all kinds of athletes regardless of their age, but I think how it happened is probably more unique to me than the fact that it happened. He was literally standing still. He was not moving at all. He just rocked back onto his right foot, and it popped.
QUESTION: Heading into Big Ten according to this, you are the winningest coach in Big Ten history. A lot of coaches react differently to individual accolades, but when you hear a statement like that, what's your initial reaction?
NUTTYCOMBE: Honored. I guess I've been able to endure long enough to be able to do that, but I think I've also been blessed to have a great group of assistant coaches over quite a few years and obviously a committed group of athletes who have helped you produce it. No one does that type of thing alone. You have a lot of help.
I would just say very honored, and I don't know what else to say other than that. It's kind of staggering to me because, when you sit up here, the years go by, and you don't think of these things until someone brings them to your attention. It's pretty staggering, I guess.
QUESTION: Ed, you mentioned four or five teams capable of winning. You're usually pretty good at handicapping it. How do you break it down? Could you handicap the race a little bit, and what do you think it will come down to?
NUTTYCOMBE: I think it will come down to a lot of events. The parity in a lot of the events is incredible. Perhaps maybe with the exception of the high jump, where I just cannot see anybody but the young man (Derek) Drouin from Indiana winning, I think all other events are wide open.
Team wise, I would have to say probably Nebraska and Illinois are a little bit of a step ahead of a group of schools of which I think we're included in that second tier. With Cato, it would have been a little easier. Here again, I'm not going to dwell on that because, as I said earlier, if you have a team that counts on one athlete, you're really, truly not a good team, and that's certainly not the case.
I hope I handicapped it wrong.