Feb. 24, 2013
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GENEVA, Ohio -- Caitlin Comfort doesn't always win Big Ten championships, but when she does, she certainly wins them convincingly.
The Wisconsin senior left no doubt Saturday, running away with the conference title in with extremely impressive execution of a solid race plan.
Comfort clocked in at 16 minutes, 11.84 seconds to take the win by more than four seconds over Minnesota's Laura Docherty (16:15.00) -- but, in reality, the race wasn't even that close. Even more impressive was that Comfort's championship effort came on the heels of her fourth-place finish in the 3000 meters from late Friday.
Comfort became the first Badger to win the 5000 meters since Gwen Jorgensen successfully pulled off that 3000/5000 double by winning both events in 2009.
"I woke up this morning and I actually felt good," Comfort said. "I figured girls have done it in the past, they've doubled. They've done the 3K and come back and won in the 5000 meters, so I knew I could do it, because I'm really fit right now and I trusted my training."
Training played into Comfort's win -- she looked as strong late in her run as in the race's early stages -- but so did strategy. With help from teammate Ashley Beutler, who served as a pacesetter early in the race, Comfort was able to push the pace early, which played directly into her strength.
"It worked out really, really great," Comfort said. "The plan was to have Ashley rabbit for me and Gabi (Anzalone) and I tend to do better in races where we go out fast and it stays fast.
"That's how it played out, and I took the lead and I didn't look back."
The field didn't match the Badgers' pace, allowing Comfort to build a 75-meter lead on the field as the race passed its midway point.
While Docherty, teammate Molly Kayfes, Penn State's Natalie Bower and Nebraska's Jessica Furlan turned up the heat late, Comfort's execution of coach Jim Stintzi's strategy meant there was no catching the leader.
Still, Comfort was quick to deflect credit to the pacesetting efforts of Beutler, who had already run the final of the mile earlier Saturday after racing in the mile prelims and distance medley relay Friday.
"She did awesome, especially after racing three races before that," Comfort said. "That took a lot of guts. I'm sharing this title with her, because she deserves it."
A Big Ten runner-up in cross country and the league's third-place finisher last year in the outdoor 10,000 meters, Comfort was no stranger to the awards podium.
But hearing her name announced last was a change. A very welcome change.
"I crossed the line and I was just on cloud nine immediately," Comfort said. "I'm still on cloud nine. It feels great to finally get one under my belt.
"I've worked really hard for it."
Wisconsin also saw another day of record-breaking performances in the weight throw.
Senior Taylor Smith broke her own school record by recording a huge mark of 70 feet, 6 1/2 inches. The senior took third in the event, breaking her previous record of 69-11 1/2.
In addition to Smith's mark, UW saw a breakthrough performance from sophomore Angela Boushea, who finished sixth with a personal-best mark of 63-1 1/2. Junior Abby Lueck took seventh with a throw of 61-2 3/4 and sophomore Kelsey Card finished 10th with an effort of 60-3.
The Badgers closed out the weekend with another school record, this one in the 4x400 relay. Seniors Carrie Edmunds, Brittney Harper and Jessica Flax joined with sophomore Deanna Latham combined to run a time of 3:43.65 to take eighth in the event and break the previous record of 3:43.92.
Beutler took 10th after apparently being tripped in the final of the mile and finished with a time of 4:59.30.
Harper advanced to the finals of the 600 meters after finishing in 1:30.75 -- the third-fastest of her career - in the preliminary round. She closed out her Big Ten career with a time of 1:32.18 and a 10th-place finish on Saturday.