MADISON, Wis. -- The defending national and Big Ten champion and No. 1-ranked Wisconsin men’s cross country team opens its 2012 season with the 8-kilometer Badger Opener at the Zimmer Championship Course Friday at 5 p.m.
Other teams competing include Central Michigan, Edgewood College and entries from the Wisconsin Track Club.
In last year’s Badger Opener, the Badgers claimed a second-place finish with a team score of 29 points, three short of Marquette. Wisconsin went on to win its final six meets, including the Big Ten championship, the NCAA Great Lakes Regional and the NCAA championship to claim the program’s fifth national title.
Thanks to last year’s success, Wisconsin opens the season ranked No. 1 nationally and also sits atop the rankings in the Great Lakes Region, where the Badgers have won nine straight regional titles.
Coach Mick Byrne will use Friday’s meet to test his new and inexperienced runners and determine who will ultimately make the team. Thirteen runners have competed throughout the team’s preseason training camp and Byrne wants to see how the newcomers use that experience and translate it into a live race.
“In the first three meets we are looking for guys that we know they have done the work,” Byrne said. “But doing the work and translating that into racing, and having the ability to race, that’s what we are looking for.”
These early meets will allow Byrne to figure out which runners can contribute and help support experienced seniors Mohammed Ahmed, Reed Connor and Maverick Darling. “Who is going to establish themselves as guys that have the ability to back up Mo, Reed and Maverick?” Byrne said.
A very successful camp has increased already high levels of optimism and expectation. Byrne was pleased with how fast his runners have come together.
“Camp was incredible,” he said. “You use that word team bonding, but we brought 13 guys that earned their spot to go to camp based on the amount of work they did over the summer and our tryout.
“We set a precedent right there by doing that. The guys that went to camp felt like they belonged there, they earned a spot there, and the camaraderie and the fun that these guys had together was incredible.”