MADISON, Wis. -- The efforts of two Wisconsin middle distance runners Sunday were anything but middle of the road.
Though competing in separate events, junior Rob Finnerty and freshman Austin Mudd combined to make it a big day for the Badgers in Bloomington, Ind.
Mudd defended his national junior title by winning the 1500 meters for the second-consecutive year at the 2012 USA Junior Outdoor Championships, earning the right to represent the U.S. at next month’s 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships.
Competing on the same track hours later, Finnerty earned an automatic berth to the USA Olympic Trials by laying down a personal-best time of 3 minutes, 38.60 seconds to finish third in the 1500 meters at the Bloomington Twilight.
The reigning U.S. junior champion at 1500 meters, Mudd retained his crown with a strong run on a track that has treated him well over the past 13 months. The Greenwood, Ind., native led the race through the first 600 meters before easing back into the pack.
A hard kick over the final 100 meters made a winner of Mudd again in a time of 3:46.50. He held off runner-up Izaic Yorks, who finished in 3:46.67, as well as Oregon freshman Chad Noelle, who took third in 3:47.90.
The USA junior championships were held at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex where, as a high school senior last year, Mudd swept Indiana state titles in the 800 meters and 1500 meters in record-setting fashion in a matter of minutes.
Now, Mudd will join Yorks as Team USA’s entries in the 1500 meters for the world junior championships, which are set for July 10-15 in Barcelona, Spain.
Finnerty also extended his season with a strong run on the Haugh Complex track, making the most of a special race set up with the intent of achieving the Olympic Trials’ automatic qualifying standard of 3:39.00.
He was one of three to accomplish that mission in the Bloomington Twilight, joining Oklahoma State’s German Fernandez (3:37.76) and Indiana’s Andy Bayer (3:38.07), who is eight days removed from winning the NCAA title in the 1500.
Finnerty will now race in the opening round of the 1500 on June 28 in Eugene, Ore.
His time of 3:38.60 ranks No. 7 all-time at Wisconsin and topped the personal-best mark of 3:40.14 Finnerty set in an American Milers Club High Performance Series race on Wednesday.