No barrier: Brill brushes away pressure to win Big Ten steeplechase


Brill

May 11, 2013

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Even for someone who spends his days clearing barriers, the one Alex Brill got over Saturday was anything but routine.

Despite all the pressure he was under, Brill didn’t look shaken as he set the pace and absorbed the late charge of a competitor to win the Big Ten title in the 3000 steeplechase in 8 minutes, 51.51 seconds and send the Badgers into the final day of competition at the 2013 Big Ten Outdoor Championships with a little more momentum.

Pressure? What pressure?

First, there was the fact that he was the top returner from a stacked steeplechase at last year’s Big Ten meet. Then there was Brill’s status as the top seed for this year’s meet based on his conference-leading time of 8:50.85. Then there was the memory of last year’s NCAA West Preliminary Round, where the top-seeded Brill faded and failed to make the NCAA championships field.

Internally and externally, it added up to a lot of weight on Brill's shoulders. He brushed it off by hitting the finish line first.

“Being the top returner from last year and having the top seed definitely put some added pressure on,” Brill said. “But you have to rise to this point, especially being a junior now, being older, you’ve really got to put it out there for the team and get that championship.”

Brill
Brill had a very proud fan Saturday in his mother, Janis.

That’s exactly what he did by going to the front from the gun and staying ahead of the traffic jams that develop as the field takes the water jump.

“In distance races, you tend to not want to lead, but sometimes you just have to take it over when you feel comfortable, and that’s what I had to do today,” he said.

With about 800 meters to go, Brill found himself all alone at the front after dropping the rest of the field. Michigan’s Zach Ornelas had other ideas, however, and made a charge that had him on Brill’s shoulder as the duo took the water jump for the final time with less than 200 meters to go.

Only one of them made it over the water cleanly, however. Ornelas appeared to slip on the barrier and took a spill into the water, giving Brill clear sailing down the homestretch.

Even though it failed to develop, Brill was prepared for a race to the finish.

“I had to leave something, because you never know when someone may come up on you,” he said. “Me and Mick (assistant coach Mick Byrne) were practicing that finishing kick, especially going over the barriers, because you have to be more relaxed going faster.

“You definitely have to be prepared for anything.”

Like winning a Big Ten title, for instance.

“It definitely relieves some anxiety I was experiencing all day,” Brill said. “I haven’t been at this level in my career, not even close, where I was competing for a Big Ten title.

“Finally getting it definitely takes the edge off, you know?”

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