Sept. 13, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- The No. 7-ranked Wisconsin men’s cross country team, seeking its second-consecutive team title, will head to Terre Haute, Ind. to compete in the 8-kilometer Sycamore Invitational Saturday at 10:15 a.m. (CT).
The Badgers will run against Indiana State and Division III Rose-Hulman. Wisconsin is coming off a season-opening victory last Friday in the 6-kilometer Badger Opener at the Zimmer Championship Course in Madison. UW finished with a team score of 25 points and grabbed the top four spots as junior Jacob Erschen, freshman Malachy Schrobilgen and seniors Jacob Naylor and Neal Berman crossed the finish line together with an identical time of 18 minutes and 18 seconds.
Like last week, UW head coach Mick Byrne will use the Sycamore Invitational to continue to train his athletes, to showcase his less-experienced runners and to help fill out a top five that will likely include senior Rob Finnerty and juniors Alex Hatz and Alex Brill come October and November.
“We are continuing to train and we continue to do that through September into October,” Byrne said. “At this time of year, one guy could come out and have a good run, and someone else may not, and a lot of it has to do with their bodies reacting to the training. That is what we are looking for right now. We have a lot of guys in shape and now it is the matter of building blocks. It is taking one week on top of the other and getting stronger and getting fitter.”
Byrne will look to Erschen, Schrobilgen, Naylor and Berman to continue to take advantage of their opportunities. After crossing the line together in 18:18 last week, the quartet hopes to build on their training and improve each and every week.
In addition, Wisconsin will get an early-season opportunity to run the same course that will be used for the NCAA national championship on November 23rd.
The Badgers have fond memories of running at Terre Haute, Ind. In 2011, Wisconsin captured the program’s fifth national title at the LaVern Gibson Course behind All-America performances from Mohammed Ahmed, Elliot Krause, Ryan Collins and Reed Connor. Byrne is looking forward to being back there once again.
“It will be a trip back down memory lane to a course that I love in Terre Haute,” Byrne said. “It will be sentimental to me. We have raced there a lot while I’ve been at Wisconsin and during my Iona days and I have always liked going there. But this year we are going with a different team (than 2011). The reason why we are going is that our young team needs to race and needs to get comfortable running on the grass. Not being familiar to the course, it is important that they see the course and race on it.”
While Saturday will feature an 8-kilometer course, as opposed to the standard 10-kilometer championship race in November, Byrne believes gaining course familiarity will pay dividends down the road.
“I think every time you run in Terre Haute, you learn something different,” Byrne said. “I think a lot of people underestimate it, and I think every time you run on it, it is important is to pay particular attention to different parts of the course. The 8K course that we will be running on Saturday is different from the 10K course for NCAAs.
“The feel this Saturday is going to be completely different than November 23rd. I think it is all part of getting these kids prepared. Familiarly is a good thing in our sport, having being there, ran at the course, getting the feel of the course. I think that is important for our young team.”