May 12, 2012
• Championship Central | Results | Photo Gallery
BY CRISTIN FITZPATRICK
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. -- Saturday's competition began with an image familiar to the Badgers, but probably not to the packed fans at the Dan McClimon Memorial Track/Soccer Complex.
Crowded on the top of the podium, smiling for the cameras, was the Wisconsin women's track and field team's multi-events trio. The heptathletes -- Jessica Flax, Dorcas Akinniyi and Deanna Latham --completed the second day of the event to sweep the podium positions for the second time in a matter of months.
"I would definitely say we dominated'" said Flax, a senior who claimed her second-consecutive crown. "We did what we had to do. We took 1-2-3."
And Flax would know best of all. The defending champion did just that, protecting her title and leading the Badgers to a sixth-consecutive Big Ten crown in the multi-events. UW has swept the league's indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon titles in each of the last three seasons.
Thanks to Akinniyi, Flax and Latham, the Badgers became the first Big Ten team to record the impressive feat of sweeping the top three spots in both the pentathlon and heptathlon in the same year.
The performance -- good for 24 team points -- also has the Badgers staked to the lead in the team race after two days of competition after they racked up 52 altogether. Purdue stands second in the team standings with 32 points heading into Championship Sunday.
Flax took the crown with a Wisconsin school-record total of 5,772 points, ranking her fourth in the nation based on results entering into the weekend.
Lifting Flax to her winning score was a fantastic close to the seven-event competition, punctuated by a winning throw in the javelin and a second-place finish in the 800 meters -- the final two events.
Flax threw for a mark of 146 feet, 5 inches in the javelin -- nearly 15 feet farther than her nearest competitor. Clocking in at 2:15.97, was second-fastest in the 800, improving her personal best by three seconds.
Flax also leapt for a mark of 17-9 1/2 in the long jump to secure 677 points towards her total.
"We push each other to do the best that we can do," Flax said. "When we get to the meet we want to go 1-2-3 as that is our ultimate goal."
"When two great athletes are pushing you can expect nothing but the best. "
Akinniyi, a junior, took home silver. She won the heptathlon as a freshman in 2010 before a no-height in the high jump derailed her chances at a repeat -- and opened the door for Flax's first title -- last year.
She closed out the competition Saturday with the second-best score in Wisconsin history, a total of 5,692 points that moves her all the way to No. 7 nationally.
Akinniyi took fourth in the long jump with a mark of 18-10 and fifth in the javelin at 106-7.
However, what secured Akinniyi her runner-up placing was her fourth personal-best of the competition -- a time of 2:21.41 in the 800 meters. With her performance in the last event, Akinniyi managed a personal best performance in all three track events in the heptathlon.
Completing the sweep for the Badgers was Latham, a sophomore. She posted the fourth-best performance in UW history with 5,553 points.
Leaping for 18-8 1/2 in the long jump, Latham landed just behind Akinniyi in fifth. She also took third in the javelin with a throw of 129-3. In the 800 meters, Latham ran for 2:21.17 for fifth.
Beutler leads Badgers' other scorers
Also picking up points for Wisconsin were three throwers, including two from the shot put, freshman Kelsey Card and junior Taylor Smith.
Card took fourth with a personal-best throw of 52 feet, 3 3/4 inches and nabbed five points. Right behind in fifth was Smith, throwing for 52-0 and picking up four team points.
The third set of points came in the javelin from senior Megan Rennhack, who launched a throw of 149-4 to take fourth in the event.
Last of the day was junior Ashley Beutler in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She and teammates Dani Fischer and Hanna Knurr raced in a large field of 26 athletes, with Beutler battling her way to the bronze medal in a personal-best time of 10 minutes, 12.97 seconds -- a mark that ranks No. 2 all-time for the Badgers.
The junior found herself in the lead early the seven-lap race, clearing the barriers and trudging through the water to try and stay there.
"Normally [coach Jim Stintzi] wouldn't have me go out and lead, but he said, `You have to go for it,' especially because I was on the inside of lane one," said Beutler." I think that really helped because I didn't have anyone in front of me for the first couple of laps.
"It was kind of a confidence-booster too."
In the end, Beutler stood on the podium with the second-fasted Wisconsin time behind her, a seven-second improvement over her former best time. Beutler earned six points towards the team's total.
"It just kills me that they were about half-a-second in front of me and that's four points we really could have used," she said. "But tomorrow we have some girls in the finals. We're actually sitting really well right now so I'm hoping that our girls can pull through tomorrow."
Among those that qualified for Sunday's finals are sophomore Liga Blyholder in the 1500 meters and junior Brittney Harper in the 800 meters. Blyholder ran a time of 4:25.76 to take the sixth qualifying spot.
In the 800 meters, Harper ran a personal-best time of 2:08.17 to punch her ticket to the following day's finals.
The final day of the Big Ten championships begins with field events at 11 a.m. (CT) Sunday. Running events get underway at 12:45 p.m. Tickets are available at the McClimon Complex for $10.