Badgers' title defense begins on home course


ON WISCONSIN <b>The Badgers return three of their top five finishers from last year's championship team, including Maverick Darling and Mohammed Ahmed.</b>
ON WISCONSIN
The Badgers return three of their top five finishers from last year's championship team, including Maverick Darling and Mohammed Ahmed.
ON WISCONSIN

Nov. 8, 2012

NCAA Great Lakes Regional Information

MADISON, Wis. -- The Badgers have made a habit of breaking their own records, and they don’t have any plans to give up this weekend.

After winning its conference record 14th-straight Big Ten title on Oct. 28, the No. 6-ranked Wisconsin men's cross country team returns home looking to extend another streak at the 2012 NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Friday at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course.

The men’s 10-kilometer race starts at 1:15 p.m., following the women’s 6K race at noon.

Wisconsin will attempt to win its 11th-consecutive regional championship, the longest title streak by any team since the NCAA adopted the regional format in 1972. The Badgers have won a record 27 NCAA Great Lakes Regional titles and they are set to host the meet for the first time since 1974.

The last time UW hosted an NCAA cross country event was the 1978 NCAA Championship at Yahara Hills Golf Course in Madison.

UW head coach Mick Byrne wants the Badgers to put the conference meet behind them, but he realizes the impact winning has on his team.

“You take the confidence from running well at a conference meet and you hope that the kids are feeling good about themselves, and I think our guys are,” Byrne said. “You get a lot of confidence out of running well. You get a lot of confidence out of winning Big Ten titles.”

Wisconsin will compete against 29 other teams, including No. 12 Michigan, No. 20 Indiana and No. 28 Notre Dame. Leading the way for UW are the trio of senior All-Americans Mohammed Ahmed, Maverick Darling and Reed Connor. Senior Rob Finnerty, junior Alex Brill and sophomore Alex Hatz will also run for Wisconsin.

UW won the 2011 NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Toledo, Ohio, with a winning score of 50 points. The Badgers return three of their top five finishers from last year’s team, including Ahmed and Connor, who were part of a four-way Badgers tie for ninth place. Darling finished 12th last year.

Adding in the now-departed Ryan Collins and Elliot Krause, all five Wisconsin runners earned All-Great Lakes Region honors in 2011.

Wisconsin hopes to qualify for the 2012 NCAA Championship in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 17 by securing one of the automatic bids that comes with at top-two regional finish. The Badgers have qualified for every championship meet since 1972 and look to extend their NCAA-record streak of 40 consecutive appearances.

“This meet has a different feeling to it,” Byrne said of the regional. “At the back of your mind you know that the objective is to grab one of those two spots, and we feel pretty confident in our older guys. They have that ability to read a race.

“You want to run well but also keep something in the tank for next week. ”

Friday’s meet marks the change from an 8-kilometer races the Badgers have been running all season to the 10K distance. However, Byrne has been preparing his team to run the longer distance since the beginning of training.

“We have been training for this since July 1,” he said. “We always say that you train to run two hard 10Ks at the end of November. It has always been in our philosophy and the back of our minds because that’s what you train for.

“Our guys will be able to handle that.”

Winning an 11th-consecutive Great Lakes Regional title on the Badgers’ home course provides a little extra motivation.

“It would be cool to go in there and win it again, especially at home because winning is fun and contagious and gives you confidence,” Byrne said. “It gives you momentum going from one race to the other.”

ON WISCONSIN
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