Sept. 26, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- The No. 1-ranked Wisconsin men's cross country team heads to Chicago to race in the 40th-annual Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational on Saturday.
UW will compete against host Loyola, Chicago State, Illinois, Illinois State, UIC, Northern Iowa, Oakland, Purdue, Southeast Missouri State, Southern Illinois, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham in the 8-kilometer race, which is set for 12:15 p.m.
The Badgers have won nine-consecutive team titles, including a victory two weeks ago in the 8-kilometer Wolfie Invitational in Stony Brook, N.Y.
UW finished with a team score of 20 points and swept places 2-6. Senior Rob Finnerty, junior Neal Berman, sophomore Alex Hatz and junior Michael Brice crossed the finish line together in a time of 25 minutes, 35 seconds.
Returning senior All-Americans Mohammed Ahmed, Reed Connor and captain Maverick Darling will not compete on Saturday, creating another opportunity for less experienced runners to prove they have what it takes to make the Badgers' travel team.
"I would certainly say this week is an important week for a lot of those guys that feel that they can make the team," UW head coach Mick Byrne said. "It is another opportunity for them and another opportunity for me to assess those guys and assess the team."
Byrne has been pleased with the work his three leaders -- Ahmed, Connor and Darling -- have put in despite having yet to compete in a race this season.
"Right now we are still in training mode with those guys," said Byrne, referring to his experienced seniors. "They are looking real good and progressing real well."
The Badgers are moving into the heart of their schedule with the Wisconsin adidas Invitational a couple weeks away and the Big Ten championship a month away. Less experienced runners must make an impact and run with a sense of urgency, as the opportunities for them to compete will decrease for many.
"We are at a time of the year where things have really kicked up a notch in terms of intensity," Byrne said. "Somewhere in the next week or two we will be ready to make a decision on what direction we are going with our guys."