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Byrne meets media to talk Big Ten championship

<b>Head coach Mick Byrne met with the media Monday to discuss Sunday's Big Ten championship.</b>

Head coach Mick Byrne met with the media Monday to discuss Sunday's Big Ten championship.

Oct. 23, 2012

Byrne News Conference Small Video Graphic

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's cross country coach Mick Byrne looked ahead to Sunday's 2012 Big Ten Championship during Wisconsin Athletcs' weekly news conference Monday.

Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Byrne's remarks can be found below.

BYRNE: As you all know, we're into championship week. It's what we train for. It's the meat of our season. We get excited about it. Our athletes right now are preparing for Big Ten championships and beyond. It's the same approach we have had.

We look down the road at this week's meet. We look two weeks down the road to hosting the regional meet here. We're excited about that. And then moving on to the national championships.

The adidas meet is in the past. We've kind of sorted out the pieces of the puzzle, and we are going to go with our big guns this week at the Big Ten championships. Mohammed Ahmed is going to run. Reed Connor will run. Maverick Darling will run. So we're excited to have those guys together.

And now for us, it's up to the younger guys to see who is going to back these guys up. Obviously, Mohammed Ahmed is the defending Big Ten champion. Maverick Darling had a great run last year, and so did Reed Connor. There's no reason to think these guys aren't going to run well this Sunday. They are very excited about putting on the uniform. They're very excited about defending our Big Ten title, and they're excited about some of the younger guys who they believe can back them up, especially Rob Finnerty, who had a pretty good run at the adidas meet, and also Alex Hatz.

After that, it's up to the other guys to do a good job in a supporting role as sweepers, and hopefully we come out at the end of the day with another Big Ten title.

QUESTION: You can admit, was this all part of the plan anyway, to run these guys?

BYRNE: No, absolutely not. You know, it was all about Mo. It was about him preparing as best he can for Big Tens and beyond. Given that he went very late into the year, it was all about how he was feeling. It didn't make sense for him to get into a race against the defending NCAA champion here at home last week. He needed another few workouts.

Last two workouts have been exceptionally good and better than anything he's done here so far in his career. And now he wants to put those workouts to use and see where he's at.

And in saying that, going into a Big Ten championship race, there's some excellent individuals. Dan Larry from Michigan. The two guys from Indiana, Andrew Bayer.  He knows he's going to have to do well.

In saying that, he's prepared real hard and hard for the next three races. So he's excited about it.

QUESTION: With like the football team, we ask about being the two time defending NCAA champs. Does that bring pressure or expectation with that?  What does it do when you're the 13 is time champions?  What does it do to the mindset?  

BYRNE: It puts a huge target on your back, that's for sure. You have to respect the other schools. Michigan beat us at the adidas meet. Indiana beat us at the adidas meet. Going into it right now, we're ranked third. I don't know if Mohammed Ahmed or Reed Connor or Maverick Darling consider it pressure. It's something we talk about all the time. We prepare mentally for this part of the year, but in saying that, they love the idea that they've got a target on their back. They get excited about that. They recognize the tradition and the history, and let's face it, that's why a lot of these guys came to Wisconsin.

So if you're going to be a Badger and you're going to wear that uniform, then you have to expect to have that target on your back, and you have to expect that people are going to come gunning for you. So we expect Michigan    they're going to have a lot of supporters out there on Sunday because Ann Arbor's not that far from East Lansing, so we expect them to have a big group of supporters.

And Indiana, always Indiana, and they're always going to do what they do and come after us. Their athletes get excited about competing against Wisconsin, as we do get excited about competing against those guys.

QUESTION: Mick, was there    knowing that you could have redshirted Ahmed or Connor. It would be nice to have them back next year, though, wouldn't it?  I mean, for an extra year.

BYRNE: Well, it absolutely would, and we've made the decision now, and I'm going to have to live with that 12 months down the road.

Never, ever like to use the word rebuilding, but you may hear me using that this time next year. It is what it is. As a coach, we made the decision not to run them earlier. I don't think that's going to affect anything that happens from here on out for the next three meets.

The important thing is that they're healthy right now, and we hold them out, and God knows what would happen this time next year, especially with Mohammed. The training at a very, very high, intense level, and the same with Reed Connor, and you just don't know.

Last year we had five guys, and we won a national title with just five guys. And anything could have happened throughout the season with any one of those guys, and the result may have been different. So that certainly came into my thought process.

Right now we've got three healthy guys. Let's go with it. They want to go and get on with whatever life brings to those guys after Wisconsin.

QUESTION: When you formulate a plan for the race, you've got these three stallions. Do they help bring up the other two or do they    how do you work that?  

BYRNE: Now you want me to give out my race plan for Sunday. I mean, obviously, it helps having a Mo Ahmed, Reed Connor, and Maverick Darling up front. Having guys like that with the race experience, the race savvy. I said it last year, one great advantage or asset having those guys is they have a great ability to read a race.

We see a lot of great athletes, but they don't always have the ability to read or lead a team or to read the race correctly. And they just have that race savviness. And you can't replace that. You can't buy it. You can't replace it.

I am fully confident that they will be able to read the race come Sunday. They will get up front with the other big guns in the race, and it will be a battle. Last year it was just wear and tear, grind everybody down, and it worked. This year it will probably be the same up front. We got to make sure that our other guys realize their role. Hatz and Finnerty have to understand we don't need them to be in that mix. We need them to be good supporters.

I guess, if it was soccer terms, we'd call them sweepers. Their job is to sit back, analyze what's going on in the race, and understand that the three big guns up front, they'll do their job. That I can guarantee. And the supporter cast have to do their job also and just have that race savviness, just have    always stay tuned in to their own bodies and the heartbeat of the race.

And I think certainly Hatz and Finnerty are two guys that can handle that.

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