June 12, 2013
• USTFCCCA John McDonnell Program of the Year
MADISON, Wis. -- Podium finishes at the NCAA cross country and indoor track and field championships lifted Wisconsin to a runner-up finish in the race for the John McDonnell Program of the Year award, which was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The Badgers’ finish matches the best-ever showing by a Big Ten Conference team.
Arkansas claimed the award, which is named for legendary Razorbacks coach John McDonnell, on the strength of winning the NCAA indoor title, finishing third outdoors and taking 10th in cross country. UW finished ahead of third-place Oregon (30.5 points), with Florida State (33) finishing fourth and Texas (38.5) rounding out the top five.
The award is handed out to the program with the lowest cumulative score, which is determined based on team finishes at the NCAA cross country, indoor track and outdoor track championships. Each finishing position is worth one point, with a first-place finish valued at one point, a runner-up finish two points, and so on.
The Badgers finished with a cumulative score of 21 thanks to finishing second in cross country, third indoors and in a tie for 15th outdoors. Arkansas finished with 14 total points.
“The Program of the Year award means a lot in our sport because it’s a sign that you’ve built a complete program,” UW head coach Ed Nuttycombe said. “A lot of schools are known for distance running or sprints or throws, and it’s not easy to put together a great all-around program.
“We take a lot of pride in being in the mix for this award right down to the end. It tells us that we’ve built a complete team that can compete at a high level nationally, all the way from cross country season in September through the end of the outdoor season in June.”
It was a banner year for the Badgers, who won their conference-record 14th-consecutive Big Ten championship in cross country and then secured their 26th overall conference track title under Nuttycombe when they won another crown in dramatic fashion at the Big Ten indoor championships.
UW also secured its 11th-consecutive NCAA Great Lakes Regional title in cross country, with senior Mohammed Ahmed taking the individual championship on UW’s own Thomas Zimmer Championship Course.
Ahmed, senior Reed Connor and senior Maverick Darling all earned first-team All-America honors in cross country as UW followed its 2011 national title with a runner-up showing at the 2012 NCAA Championship.
Cross country head coach Mick Byrne was named Big Ten coach of the year for the fifth time in as many seasons in Madison and also earned USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year honors.
After winning the Big Ten indoor title on the strength of individual champions Japheth Cato in the heptathlon and Maverick Darling in the 3000 meters, UW went on to secure its third podium finish at the NCAA indoor championships in eight years.
Six Badgers earned All-America honors indoors, led by Cato’s runner-up finish in the heptathlon, which came with the fourth-highest score in collegiate history at 6,165 points. Sophomore Zach Ziemek matched the collegiate record in the heptathlon pole vault by clearing 17-8 1/2 and gave UW another scorer in the event with his fifth-place finish (5,937). Sophomore Austin Mudd raced to a third-place finish in the mile (in a UW record 3:57.93), while junior Danny Block also broke his own school record to take third in the shot put (65-7 1/2). Finally, Darling was fourth and Ahmed fifth in the 5000 meters.
Those indoor performances earned Nuttycombe Big Ten and Great Lakes Region coach of the year honors. For his part, Darling was named Great Lakes Region Track Athlete of the Year for the indoor season by the USTFCCCA.
He went on to match his indoor performance with another fourth-place showing in the outdoor 5000, while Connor took sixth. Mudd was fourth in the 1500 meters, and Block claimed sixth in the shot put to give UW a total of four All-Americans outdoors.
That added up to a tie for 15th place for the Badgers at the NCAA outdoor championships.
UW’s runner-up finish in the Program of the Year standings matches Indiana’s second-place showing from 2011-12 for the best by a Big Ten program in the five-year history of the award.
“We started this year with some momentum after winning the Big Ten outdoor meet last year,” Nuttycombe said. “Hopefully we can carry a lot of momentum out of a really strong year and use it next season, because we’re very excited about what’s on the horizon for this team.”