Oct. 10, 2012
• Wisconsin adidas Invitational Meet Home
MADISON, Wis. -- The championship portion of the season may still be a month away, but there will certainly be a championship feel to things as the top-ranked Wisconsin men’s cross country team toes the line Friday.
That’s when the No. 1-ranked Badgers host the fourth-annual Wisconsin adidas Invitational at the Zimmer Championship Course, an event that will have a huge impact -- both directly and indirectly -- on the NCAA championship picture for a number of teams come November.
The meet is the highlight of the cross country regular season nationally, and the Badgers will race against 45 other schools -- including 19 of the 30 teams ranked in the most recent USTFCCCA national coaches’ poll. Another six teams in the field received votes in that poll.
In addition to UW, the race features five other top-10 teams: No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Iona, No.5 Portland, No. 8 Stanford and No. 10 Syracuse.
“It is fantastic to see the number of teams that are coming here this weekend,” UW head coach Mick Byrne said. “We are going to have our hands full with Oklahoma, Iona, my former school, and many other top-10 teams.”
Byrne’s team embraces the challenge of running against such a large and competitive field.
“We have got five or six teams that are ranked in the top 10. We're excited about that,” Byrne said. “It kind of kicks things up a notch or two, and our athletes are looking forward to it.”
Byrne has used September meets to assess younger and less experience runners to see who has what it takes to run in championship races.
“Those meets in September gave us great opportunities to evaluate some of our younger athletes, see where they're at,” he said. “Competing in the level of meets that we ran in September is completely different.
“Now we're on the national stage.”
Junior Alex Brill has had a strong start to the 2012 campaign and may be counted on to contribute for the season’s most important races. He and several other runners, including senior Rob Finnerty, junior Alex Hatz and junior Neal Berman, are battling for spots on the Badgers’ travel roster for the championship season.
“Certainly, if we're going to challenge for a podium spot later on at the national championships, we're going to need Alex Brill to step up,” Byrne said. “Now Alex is on the big stage, so we're certainly looking for him to step up on Friday.”
Byrne stresses his runners approach the highly-competitive meet with the right mindset.
“We're going to continue along the same path that we have for the last couple of years, irrespective of the result on Friday,” he said. “In terms of what we're looking to do for the rest of the season, it's just the meet on Oct. 12. I have that approach. Top athletes have that approach.
“We have the same `Big Ten and beyond' (approach) to everything that we do.”
Byrne is still developing his plan for who he wants to run Friday’s race. Senior Mohammed Ahmed, who has yet to compete this season, will not run. Senior Maverick Darling will make his season debut, while senior Reed Connor’s status has yet to be determined.
Regardless of who suits up, the Wisconsin adidas invitational will be a great opportunity for the Badgers to assess where they stack up against the nation’s elite.
“We are going to see a lot of great teams this weekend, and I think we'll know a little bit more about what's going on around the country,” Byrne said. “After this weekend we'll really have a good, clear picture of what's going on around the country and the whole national scene.”