UW Health Sports Medicine 

Achievements of the Year: Men's track grabs Big Ten, NCAA hardware

June 27, 2013

Over the course of two weeks, UW Athletics will look back on the Badgers' biggest accomplishments during the 2012-13 season.

MADISON, Wis. -- It’s easy to assume that, in 30 years as head coach of the Wisconsin men’s track and field program, Ed Nuttycombe had seen just about everything. It took two weeks this winter to prove that theory wrong.

Over the course of those two weeks, Nuttycombe’s Badgers won yet another Big Ten championship in dramatic fashion and then used the remarkable efforts of just seven athletes to take home a trophy from the NCAA championships.

After a surreal finish that saw the Badgers come together to mount a charge and claim the Big Ten outdoor title in 2012, the UW team knew better than to count anyone out on the final day of this year’s indoor conference meet.

Much as the Badgers had the previous May, upstart Illinois made a charge up the standings on the final day of competition at the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Championships in Geneva, Ohio.

The Badgers had all but maximized their scoring opportunities, with Japheth Cato and Zach Ziemek going 1-2 in the heptathlon, Mohammed Ahmed, Maverick Darling, Elliot Krause and Brian Leung scoring 19 points in the 5000 meters and senior Paul Annear grabbing a vital point with his eighth-place finish in the high jump.

That gave UW a tenuous 1 1/2-point lead heading into the 4x400 relay. As it turned out, that was all the cushion the Badgers needed to come out on top of the closest finish in conference history.

“Sometimes, you just have to get the stick around the track,” assistant coach Mark Guthrie remarked to his 4x400 relay team after the put the wraps on the title in the final event.

In the end, that was the difference for the Badgers, who benefitted when Illinois’ Stephon Pamilton stumbled and fell to the track with 250 meters to go. Drew Simmons got the stick around on his anchor carry to give UW the title.

The top five teams were separated by just four points. The Badgers needed 90 points to win, with hard-charging Illinois second (87.5 points) and projected favorites Penn State (87), Nebraska (86.667) and Minnesota (86) rounding out the top five.

"I was stunned," Nuttycombe said. "I honestly did not know what to say the first few minutes after the race.”

Those feelings quickly faded for the seven Badgers that would represent UW at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships two weeks later.

Once again, the Badgers maximized their scoring opportunities to take third place and give Nuttycombe his fourth podium finish at an NCAA championship meet.

“It is amazing when you bring that few and you are that consistent with everybody hitting, but that’s what you have to do,” Nuttycombe said. “It’s a super-highly competitive setting and you just have to rise to the occasion and, fortunately, all seven of the guys did.”

Six of UW’s seven entrants scored points and earned the All-America laurels that go along with placing at the NCAA championships. Junior Japheth Cato led the way by claiming runner-up honors in the heptathlon for the second-consecutive year -- with the fourth-highest score in NCAA history -- while Ziemek took fifth in his NCAA debut. A school-record run of 3:57.93 was the result of Austin Mudd’s tremendous kick to take third in the mile, while Danny Block shattered his own school record with a throw of 65-7 1/2 to take third in the shot put and Darling claimed fourth in the 5000.

Those performances added up to 33 points and put the Badgers third behind national champion Arkansas (74) and runner-up Florida (59) while holding off a big final-day charge by fourth-place Texas A&M (30).

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