March 24, 2013
• IAAF World Championships Results
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Mick Byrne always preaches the importance of being “Badger Tough” to his athletes.
Mired in snow and mud on Sunday, Mohammed Ahmed toughed his way through conditions befitting of the “badgers” that gave UW teams their nickname -- the 1800s lead miners who burrowed tunnels into hillsides to escape the cold and elements of the state’s harsh winters.
The Wisconsin junior did more than just endure the difficult conditions, however, as he raced his way to an impressive 22nd-place finish at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Ahmed’s effort led the way for his Canadian team's ninth-place finish, pacing Canada to its best-ever showing in the 40-year history of the world championships.
Ethiopia claimed the team title with 38 points, while the United States took the world by surprise in grabbing the silver medal (52) ahead of third-place Kenya (54).
Ahmed covered the 12-kilometer distance in 33 minutes, 56 seconds to score just the second top-25 finish for a Canadian since 1998. It’s the best showing for a Canadian since former Badger Simon Bairu claimed 12th in 2010, the last time the world championship was decided in Bydgoszcz.
Ahmed avoided early-race congestion by getting to the front immediately, and he hung with the lead group through the first half of the race.
“The pace was slow, which was awesome,” Ahmed said. “I felt great until the final two laps.”
With the addition of a punishing hill, the Myslecinek Park course looked much different than the one that hosted the event in 2010. That’s when Ahmed covered the 8-kilometer layout in 23:29 on his way to a 27th-place finish in the world junior championship race.
“The hill in the last couple laps was the toughest and I was moving backwards, but slowly,” he said. “I was battling hard, but it was impossible to make up ground at the end of the race with the slippery conditions and pace of the leaders.”
After running 16th at the race’s midway point -- three laps around the 2-kilometer loop -- Ahmed faded a bit down the stretch but still led the Canadians to just their second top-10 team finish at the world championships, and their first since 1987.
“It was a good performance, but I am disappointed as I was aiming for a top-16 finish,” he said.
Wisconsin was also represented in the 8K men’s junior race, with freshman Malachy Schrobilgen running to a 26th-place finish for the United States in 23:12.
Schrobilgen’s effort left him just 20 seconds behind leading American finisher Matt McClintock, who finished 20th in 22:52. Craig Nowak was second across the line for the U.S. in 23:03, taking 24th place.
The trio’s effort led the way for a fourth-place team finish, the U.S.’s best showing since the Americans were fourth in 2001.
Ethiopia won the world junior title with 23 points, while Kenya totaled 26 to take the silver and Morocco tallied 65 points for the bronze.