Streak sweepers: Seniors lead Badgers to 14th-straight Big Ten title


2012 Big Ten Championship
Forest Akers East Course • East Lansing, Mich.
Team Photo
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• Distance: 8 Kilometers
 Team Results
1. Wisconsin 33
2. Michigan 65
3. Indiana 79
4. Illinois 86
5. Minnesota 141
6. Penn State 169
7. Michigan State 183
8. Ohio State 210
9. Purdue 213
10. Iowa 267
11. Nebraska 333
 Individual Results
1. Zachary Mayhew IND 23:30
2. Maverick Darling WIS 23:35
3. Mohammed Ahmed WIS 23:36
4. Andrew Bayer IND 23:39
5. Dan Lowry MICH 23:40
6. Reed Connor WIS 23:47
7. Rob Finnerty WIS 24:02
8. Matt McClintock PUR 24:04
9. Jannis Topfer ILL 24:07
10. Hunter Mickow ILL 24:08
15. Alex Brill WIS 24:13
23. Alex Hatz WIS 24:27
36. Michael Van Voorhis WIS 24:39
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Oct. 28, 2012

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EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Cross country is not always regarded as a spectator-friendly sport.

Maverick Darling had plenty of both -- spectators and friends -- on hand Sunday as he capped off his Big Ten career close to home.

The Wisconsin senior translated that support into a runner-up finish as he led the Badgers to their 14th-consecutive conference title at the 2012 Big Ten Championship.

Of the approximately 1,000 people in his hometown of Ovid, Mich., nearly 200 -- enough to fill three school buses -- made their way to the Forest Akers East Course in nearby East Lansing. They got a good show for their efforts.

 Fast Facts
• Wisconsin claims 14th-straight Big Ten team title
• Badgers place four runners in top seven
• Ahmed and Darling claim fourth-straight All-Big Ten first team honors

"It was kind of a community effort," Darling said. "I had a lot of people tell me I put a small town on the map, and to have them there is pretty unique and very special.

"I wanted to win it for them and I came up a little short, but they were still pretty proud of me."

There was plenty to be proud of for the Badgers. Behind Darling's second-place effort, fellow seniors Mohammed Ahmed (third place) and Reed Connor (sixth) helped UW claim the team championship with a score of 33 points.

Wisconsin's run of 14 straight crowns is the longest in conference history, extending a streak that began in 1999.

"He wanted to win. He wanted to win close to home," UW coach Mick Byrne said of Darling. "All these busloads of people came to see him run. At the end of the day, he knows we got a team title, and how many guys can walk away and say they're four-time Big Ten champions?"

The truth is, only Darling, Ahmed and Connor can.

UW's 14 titles in the last 14 seasons are more than every other Big Ten team has won all-time, with the exception of Michigan State, which has taken home a total 14 crowns in the 96-year history of the Big Ten meet.

Wisconsin won its 46th title on Sunday.

"My freshman year, when I redshirted, the seniors that were on their way out said that no one wants to be on the team that loses the Big Ten streak," Darling said. "We understand what that means. It's just phenomenal to know you're part of such a strong program.

"Winning 14 straight championships -- in any collegiate sport - is pretty impressive. To be a part of that is fantastic and something I don't take lightly."

Darling finished the 8-kilometer course in a time of 23 minutes, 35 seconds. Ahmed crossed the line right behind him in 23:36, and Connor finished sixth in 23:47.

Fellow senior Rob Finnerty stepped up with an impressive seventh-place finish in 24:02. Junior Alex Brill rounded out the top five for UW, finishing 15th in 24:13.

"Finnerty was incredible," said Byrne, who won his fifth Big Ten title in as many seasons at UW. "He did an amazing job. He looked like a different person out there. He was confident, he was in control, he was leading the second group and, a couple of times, I had to shout at him to keep something in the tank."

Sophomores Alex Hatz and Michael Van Voorhis finished 23rd and 36th, respectively, in times of 24:27 and 24:39.

Ahmed, Darling, Connor and Finnerty each earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.

That makes Ahmed and Darling are the seventh and eighth runners in Big Ten history to earn first-team All-Big Ten accolades in four consecutive seasons. The pair join Jason Casiano (1991-94) and Chris Solinsky (2003-06) as the only Badgers to accomplish the rare feat.

Connor claimed his second-consecutive first-team All-Big Ten honor, while Finnerty notched his first.

Rounding out the race for the team title was No. 11 Michigan in second with 65 points, No. 24 Indiana third with 79, Illinois fourth (86) and Minnesota fifth (141)

Indiana senior Zachary Mayhew won the individual title in 23:29.

With "The Streak" intact, the Badgers turn their attention defending their crowns at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional and the NCAA championship. UW has won nine consecutive regional titles and claimed the fifth national championship in program history last season.

Up first is the regional, which UW will host Nov. 9 at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course.

"Wer're running at home and we're going to have some fun with it," Byrne said. "Like Mo said today, let's bring it home two weeks from now.

"The objective for regionals is to grab one of those two spots and move on."

ON WISCONSIN
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