UW Health Sports Medicine 

Golden girl: Flax claims Big Ten title with gritty performance

ON WISCONSIN <b>Jessica Flax needed her personal-best run in the 800 meters to secure the pentathlon title.</b>
Jessica Flax needed her personal-best run in the 800 meters to secure the pentathlon title.

Feb. 22, 2013

Day 1 Results

GENEVA, Ohio -- Jessica Flax said she didn't have anything to prove.

That didn't stop her from proving, yet again, she is one of the Badgers' all-time greats.

The senior led the charge for the Wisconsin women's track and field team on the opening day of the 2013 Big Ten Indoor Championships by securing a fourth-straight conference crown in the pentathlon for UW.

Flax kept UW's streak alive with a gritty performance in the final round of the five-discipline event that allowed her to hold off a strong field of competitors and add another gold medal to her collection.

She finished with a personal-best score of 4,078 points, enough to keep Illinois' Marissa Golliday (4,067 points) and her own teammate, sophomore Deanna Latham (4,003) at bay.

"I had to get past my pain and was like, `What do you want to do? Do you want to win? What do you want more?' and I said, `Suck it up,'" Flax said. "At the end of the day I was going to be sad if I didn't give my all, so I gave it my all."

That decision helped extend the Badgers' dominance over the Big Ten in the combined events. UW has now won each of the last seven conference titles between the indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon.  Three of the medals belong to Flax, with teammate Dorcas Akinniyi - who had won the last three Big Ten pentathlon crowns -- staking a claim to four more.

"It's kind of sad because Dorcas isn't here with me. It was like my long-lost friend is gone. I really missed her. Even though we're all really competitive, that's like my big sister so I missed her.

"It was kind of hard without her here."

Latham helped fill the void as the other half of UW's dynamic duo and lived up to her No. 1 seed early in the competition. She entered the final event, the 800 meters, in the lead, but Flax showed she wasn't ready to pass the torch just yet with her run of 2 minutes, 15.33 seconds.

That put Flax right on the heels of Gollday, who ran 2:15.20 to post the top time in the 800. And that's exactly where Flax needed to be, as she entered the 800 with a slim 13-point edge on Golliday.

"I just had to stay with Marissa from Illinois, and she started getting away," Flax said. "I just had to suck it up in the moment, because I knew if she got too far away I'd give up and be too exhausted."

So Flax matched her strides and carved more than 3 1/2 seconds off her previous personal best, keeping Golliday's advantage at the finish line small enough that it trimmed just two points off Flax's lead.

As usual, Flax took little time to bask in the glow of her accomplishments -- including a personal-best run of 8.49 seconds in the 60 hurdles -- and turned to what comes next. That would be a trip to the NCAA championships, where she will wear her Wisconsin uniform one last time.

"I'm glad I won, but I think I could have done better in long jump. In all of my events I could have done better, really," Flax said. "One more chance. We'll see how it goes at nationals. I'll give it my all there, too."

Thanks in large part to the points put up by Flax and Latham, the Badgers closed the first day of competition at the SPIRE Institute in second place in the team standings with 32 points. They trail Nebraska, which racked up 50 points on the meet's opening day.

Another duo scored for the Badgers in the shot put, with sophomore Kelsey Card taking third by throwing 52 feet, 10 inches. Senior Taylor Smith wasn't far off that mark with her effort of 51-7, which was good for fifth place.

On the track, senior Caitlin Comfort used a strong finish to race to a fourth-place finish in the 3000 meters. Comfort clocked in at 9:27.59, with teammates Gabrielle Anzalone running 9:37.62 (for 13th place) and senior Hanna Knurr clocking in at 9:52.56 (22nd).

A pair of seniors also punched tickets into Saturday's final rounds with solid qualifying efforts in Friday's prelims.

Ashley Beutler will return to the final in the mile after running 4:48.17 in her preliminary heat. She finished sixth in the event at last year's Big Ten meet.

In the 600 meters, Brittney Harper raced to a time of 1:30.75 -- the third-fastest of her career - to earn a spot in the event's final round for the third-straight year. Harper was runner-up in the 600 at the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships before scoring a fifth-place finish at last year's conference meet.

Both Beutler and Harper contributed to the Badgers' ninth-place effort in the distance medley relay, as well.

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