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Familiar finish: Ahmed leads Badgers to 11th-straight title


Nov. 9, 2012

2012 NCAA Great Lakes Regional
Zimmer Championship Course • Madison, Wis.
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• Distance: 10 Kilometers
 Team Results
1. Wisconsin 43
2. Michigan 73
3. Indiana 107
4. Michigan State 113
5. Notre Dame 122
 Individual Results
1. Mohammed Ahmed Wisconsin 30:37
2. Zachary Mayhew Indiana 30:43
3. Dan Lowry Michigan 30:46
4. Andrew Bayer Indiana 30:46
5. Maverick Darling Wisconsin 30:47
6. Reed Connor Wisconsin 30:53
15. Alex Brill Wisconsin 31:29
16. Rob Finnerty Wisconsin 31:29
48. Jacob Naylor Wisconsin 32:17
49. Alex Hatz Wisconsin 32:20
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MADISON, Wis. -- The Badgers stuck to their plan and, in the process, repeated history once again at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
 
A strong team performance Friday led the No. 6-ranked Wisconsin men's cross country team to its 11th-consecutive regional title and an automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Championship.
 
The win extended the longest title streak by any team since the NCAA adopted the regional format in 1972 and increased the Badgers' record total of 28 NCAA Great Lakes Regional titles.
 
"Keeping with tradition, that is what being a Badger is all about, and that's what we did," said senior Reed Connor, who finished sixth. "We held the tradition today."

 Fast Facts
• Wisconsin claims 11th-consecutive Great Lakes Regional title
Mohammed Ahmed wins individual title in 30:37
• Badgers earn NCAA-record 41st-consecutive championship appearance

Wisconsin won the 10-kilometer event on its own Thomas Zimmer Championship Course behind senior Mohammed Ahmed's individual title. The Badgers finished with a team score of 43 points, and Ahmed was the first to cross the line in a time of 30 minutes, 37 seconds.
 
The Badgers had five runners finish in the top 16 overall, including three in the top six.
 
"Right from the beginning we just wanted to go out there and dictate the pace," Ahmed said. "I just wanted to go out there and try to win it for those guys.
 
"It felt really, really good, so I'm happy."
 
Friday's meet was the first 10-kilometer race on the Zimmer course, and Ahmed was proud to claim the course record.
 
"For me to have that 10K course record, to be the first one to have it, it is a great honor," Ahmed said. "It is really for the team and the people out here that showed up to support us."
 
Ahmed and fellow senior Maverick Darling led the pack for much of the race, with Darling finishing fifth overall in 30:47. Connor finished just behind in sixth in 30:53.
 
"I have always said that Mohammed, Reed and Maverick just have a great knack of reading the race and reading the heartbeat of a race, and you kind of depend on that," said UW head coach Mick Byrne. "They have a lot of experience, and you saw that out there today."

This meet marked the first time UW hosted an NCAA cross country event since the 1978 NCAA Championship at Yahara Hills Golf Course in Madison. The Badgers wanted to come out strong at home, and they certainly did not disappoint.
 
"It is always a great opportunity to run in front of your home crowd with your family and friends," Ahmed said.
 
"It's obviously exciting. I think this is great for the sport, it's great for the town of Madison and it's great for the university," said Byrne. "Look at this crowd out there today. Great support.

"We are very much appreciative for that support, and our athletes get excited about running well here."
 
The Badgers couldn't have won without the great efforts put forth by junior Alex Brill and senior Rob Finnerty. The pair ran together for much of the race and rounded out the Badgers' scoring in 15th and 16th place, respectively, with identical times of 31:29.
 
"You can't say enough about both of those guys," Byrne said. "These guys are stepping into the limelight, trying to take over from Elliot Krause and Ryan Collins last year and they are doing a really good job.
 
"If we get a performance like that from those guys next week I think we will do pretty well."
 
Next week is the 2012 NCAA Championship, which the Badgers will be a part of for an NCAA record 41st-consecutive season.
 
"The goal has been all year long to win the Big Ten championship and win the national championship," said Darling. "I don't change that goal at all with these guys. I think in the last three or four weeks Rob and Brill have really stepped up their game, and they are making that a possibility for us."
 
The Badgers seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time. After a sub-par performance at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, the team has found a group of runners that has produced first-place efforts at both the Big Ten championship and the Great Lakes Regional.
 
For their part, the athletes credit Byrne and the way he prepares his runners over the course of a season.
 
"Obviously Mick is a really smart coach and he is going to get us ready at the right time," Ahmed said. "I think we can capitalize on that next Saturday."
 
"That is one of the best parts about having Mick Byrne as a coach," Connor added. "You know you are going to be ready to go when it matters."
 
The home meet marked the last time Ahmed, Connor, Darling and Finnerty would put on the Wisconsin uniform at the Zimmer course.
 
"I thought about it right at the beginning of the race," said Connor. "I looked out on the course I was just like `Wow, I'm a senior. This is it. This is the last time I will have this uniform on this course.'"
 
"It has gone by quick, but obviously I have been part of some great things here and hopefully we will finish it out really well," said Darling.
 
Big Ten schools swept the first four places at the regional meet, as No. 12 Michigan finished second with 73 points, No. 20 Indiana third with 107 and Michigan State fourth at 113. Rounding out the top five was No. 28 Notre Dame with 122 points.
 
The Badgers now turn their attention to the NCAA championship next Saturday, Nov. 17, in Louisville, Ky. UW has qualified for every championship meet since 1972. The Badgers' attempt to repeat as national champions will begin at 12:15 p.m., and they know it will not come easy.
 
"You are going up against the best teams in the country," said Byrne. "Anything can happen at national championships. Guys get on that line, they look down and they see all those great teams, and some guys handle it really well and other guys don't."
 
The team says it embraces the challenge and welcomes the target worn by the defending national champions.
 
"It gives us a little bit of swagger when we come into meets," Ahmed said. "With that comes a lot of expectations, but we love that. It makes us stay on our toes and enjoy it and train hard for it."
 
"We are going to go out there next week at nationals and we are going to give it our best shot and we know that our bodies are going to be ready to give it everything we got," Connor said. "Badger Tough, that's a motto of ours."

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