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Badgers leave nothing to chance with runner-up regional finish

Wisconsin poses after second-place podium finish at Great Lakes Regional
2013 NCAA Great Lakes Regional
Zimmer Championship Course • Madison, Wis. • Distance: 10 Kilometers

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 Team Results
1. Michigan 70
2. Wisconsin 73
3. Notre Dame 74
4. Indiana 75
5. Michigan State 151
 Individual Results
1. John Mascari Indiana St. 30:05
2. Matt McClintock Purdue 30:07
3. Mason Ferlic Michigan 30:11
4. Caleb Rhynard Michigan St. 30:12
5. Jeremy Rae Notre Dame 30:22
7. Michael Van Voorhis Wisconsin 30:29
9. Malachy Schrobilgen Wisconsin 30:38
12. Alex Hatz Wisconsin 30:40
21. Jacob Naylor Wisconsin 30:55
24. Alex Brill Wisconsin 31:00
34. Jacob Erschen Wisconsin 31:24
36. Rob Finnerty Wisconsin 31:25
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Nov. 15, 2013

MADISON, Wis. -- At the 2013 NCAA Great Lakes Regional, second place was as good as first.

The No. 19-ranked Wisconsin men's cross country team fought its way to a runner-up finish at the regional meet on its own Zimmer Championship Course on Friday to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA championship in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 23.

Although their streak of 11-conseuctive Great Lakes Regional titles came to an end, the Badgers extended their NCAA record for consecutive championship meet appearances to 42 straight. To put that into perspective, Wisconsin has qualified for every championship meet since 1972 -- when the regional format was introduced.

 Fast Facts
• Badgers' regional win streak ends at record 11 straight
• UW finishes second, secures 42nd-straight bid to NCAA meet
• Van Voorhis, Schrobilgen pace UW's five all-region honorees

"We are on our way to Terre Haute and the national championships," Wisconsin head coach Mick Byrne said. "For the last 42 years, the University of Wisconsin has been represented in the national championship and that is fantastic.

"There aren't many schools that can say that, and that speaks volumes to the tradition and to our athletes. When kids come to Wisconsin, that is what they expect to happen."

A furious final kilometer resulted in one of the closest regional races in meet history, as a mere five points separated the top four teams.

Michigan claimed the crown with a team score of 70 points, followed by Wisconsin (73 points), Notre Dame (74) and Indiana (75). Michigan State rounded out the top five with 151 points.

The Badgers placed five runners in the top 24 -- with each earning All-Great Lakes Region honors -- led by junior Michael Van Voorhis' seventh-place finish in 30 minutes, 29 seconds. The former Big Ten Athlete of the Week, who has made a habit out of being a top finisher for UW by crossing the finish line either first or second in every race this year, set a personal best by 76 seconds.

"Just coming in, I wanted to be our number one or number two guy like I've been all season," Van Voorhis said. "My goal was to stay relaxed until 8K where I would move up and pick guys off. But when Malachy (Schrobilgen) lost his shoe, I wanted to put our team in a better position so I started moving up at that point, which was a bit early, but that is alright."

"Van Voorhis is a smart kid," Byrne said. "He was able to adjust very quickly when he realized that Notre Dame was getting away with this race. He needed to get going and he did a nice job of adjusting and getting after it."

Redshirt freshman Malachy Schrobilgen, two weeks removed from winning the Big Ten title, ran his first career 10-kilometer race and finished ninth in 30:38, despite losing his shoe with four kilometers to go.

"I didn't know he lost his shoe," Byrne said. "I don't look down at their feet, I just look at their faces. Somewhere around 6K somebody shouted Malachy lost his shoe, and I'm, `So what?' He's going to keep running, he isn't going to stop just because he lost his shoe.

"Malachy is a great athlete. He is not going to let something like that hold him back. He recovered well and did a good job for the team."

Despite his top-10 shoeless finish, Schrobilgen was not satisfied with his performance.

"It was fine, but I know I could have run better today," he said. "Given the circumstances, I knew I just needed to run tough and run with my team. Today might have been a little bump in the road, but I'm not too worried.

"I just know that if I want to help out my team, I need to run the best I can and I need to be up there in the top group running well. That is my role for this team."

A trio of Badgers set personal bests to round out the top five. Junior Alex Hatz finished 12th in 30:40, senior Jacob Naylor placed 21st in 30:55, and senior Alex Brill crossed the line 24th in 31:00.

"They know that they can compete at this level," Byrne said. "If you ask any one of those guys, they will tell you that is what they are here for. Every time you run in one of these major championship races, you learn something about yourself."

After the injection of pace during the last few kilometers at the Big Ten meet caught the team by surprise and resulted in a third-place finish, the Badgers knew they had to run smarter. The plan was to run a controlled race early, slightly back of the pack, and make their move with a few kilometers to go. Byrne believed his team ran a more tactical race.

"They did a pretty good job after being a little deflated after the Big Ten meet," Byrne said. "They handled it well today. They knew exactly what they had to do and they knew what was on the line. They executed our race plan and they closed really well over the last 2K."

"We ran smarter today," Schrobilgen said. "We kept our eyes on some of the teams that were out there. I think at Big Tens we just kind of charged to the front. Mick said it best when he said we ran with blinders on, we weren't looking for each other and we weren't looking for the teams we needed to look for.

"Today we put ourselves in a better position to succeed. I think we can still execute better, but definitely getting over that hump, knowing we can run smarter, is definitely a relief."

Junior Jacob Erschen finished 34th (31:24) and senior Rob Finnerty was 36th (31:25) for Wisconsin.

Indiana State sophomore John Mascari captured the individual title in a course-record 30:05 after finishing seventh a year ago. Purdue sophomore Matt McClintock, who placed eighth at the 2012 regional meet, finished right behind Mascari in second in 30:07.

Friday's race marked just the second time a 10-kilometer race had been run at the Zimmer Championship Course, and each of the top eight runners beat Mohammed Ahmed's course-record of 30:37 that was set last year.

Byrne felt confident that his team had earned enough points this season to earn an at-large bid for the NCAA championship, if it didn't grab one of the two automatic bids on Friday.

But now the thought doesn't even have to enter his mind.

"An automatic bid gives you momentum, and to me, confidence and momentum is important," Byrne said. "Who wants to walk out of this meet, waiting until tomorrow night to find out if you're going to NCAAs? We were pretty confident we were going anyway, but just knowing that you are one of the two teams is awesome.

"In our sport, it is all about confidence, and hopefully they will take a ton of confidence out of today. We march on."

"It's a great tradition," Schrobilgen said. "Every year Wisconsin is always in the national conversation, so it is definitely an honor to keep that streak going. We wanted to get momentum.

"We didn't just want to qualify, we wanted to qualify with some force."

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