Feb. 24, 2014
• Byrne News Conference
MADISON, WIS. -- Wisconsin Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Mick Byrne addressed the media Monday at the Kohl Center about the upcoming 2014 Big Ten Indoor Championships at the SPIRE Institue in Geneva, Ohio.
Video of Byrnes's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of his remarks is below.
Byrne: Well, as they always say, it's a championship week, and the coaching staff and their student athletes get very excited this time of year. We feel that we have some great momentum going into the meet as evidenced by some of our performances over the last couple of weekends. Some great performances from Mike Lihrman, a new collegiate record in the weight throw; Danny Block throwing 64 feet to go top of the Big Ten. List Reed Connor in the 5K, running a national leading time in the 5K, and then a Big Ten leading time in the 3K followed closely by Mo Ahmed.
So, yeah, we feel that certainly on the men's side we've got some great momentum, and on the women's side, as Brian said, Deanna Latham, Angela Boushea, Molly Hanson leading she's ranked third in the mile right now and Emma Lisa Murphy and Cawley on the distance side.
So over the last couple of weekends, our kids have had some great meets, and we're all excited about heading to Ohio this week.
Question: Just talk about Reed Connor and Mo Ahmed. I know both of them with Mo, he didn't compete last year at outdoors; Reed didn't compete last year at indoors. How have they looked so far this year?
Byrne: Well, certainly Reed running the 5K two weekends ago at Iowa State and running a 13:37 to go top of the leader board in the nation, kind of expected that from Reed. He's in great shape. He's worked put in a lot of work over the last six months. Not competing during the fall gave him some extra momentum in his training to take that to another level.
Mo had a great winter break. He was at altitude training, came back in great shape. And probably got a little bit too excited when he came down off altitude and tweaked his hamstring a little bit.
But I think he showed on Friday night in the 3K, although Reed got the better of him. I think going into Big Tens, he's looking pretty good.
So when you add in Malachy Schrobilgen into that duo, I think we got some firepower up front in the 3K and the 5K.
Question: Could you put Lihrman's performance in some perspective. It's almost Beeman esque, you know, and a 10 year old record to push it up by almost ten inches, isn't it?
Byrne: Yeah, just looking at it a couple of times on video, and when you see the effort, it just was I mean, technically, it was flawless. And, I mean, it looked like just especially coming out of his last turn, he didn't have to strain a lot. He just the speed was incredible.
So on his release, it looks like there's a lot more there. So it's kind of scary to think what he might be able to do over the next couple of weeks.
I think he's just, like our distance guys, coming into shape right now.
Question: You're the defending champions on the men's side, but and also ranked fifth. Does that put pressure on you as to defend?But you also have some other top ranked teams in the conference.
Byrne: Well, we run a conference meet to pick a champion, and there are obviously some great teams. Penn State right now are just looking fantastic. And I think Illinois, Ohio State, they're going to be teams that are going to give us some trouble.
We're going to have to bring our A game to the meet, nothing less than our A game from our athletes that we expect to perform at the highest level.
They know what the expectation going into the meet is. Let's face it, guys like Mo Ahmed, Michael Lihrman, Reed Connor, our top athletes know what's on the line here.
We just need to get great support from the supporting cast. And I think, if we do that, kids get excited, want to defend their title, I think we'll be in pretty good shape.
Question: Mick, a two part question on Cato. Is he 100 percent healthy? And when you've got somebody as versatile as him, how important is it to get him in all the right events to get the maximum potential out of him?
Byrne:Yeah, I mean, the first part of the question, is he 100 percent, I mean, he certainly looked like it over the last couple of weekends. His 18 foot pole vault down in Arkansas, he was on fire. He wanted to go again in the long jump. We shut him down early in that event this past weekend. We kind of had to sit him down.
So he certainly seems to have recovered 100 percent from the injury and from the surgery, which is now nine months out. In order for us to win the Big Ten meet, obviously, we have to get more points out of Cato than just in the heptathlon. And that's the plan.
Question: Can you talk also about just the overall strength in the weight throws in the conference.
Byrne: The conference in a lot of the field events has just gone crazy. Top eight, nine kids in the country very often are in the Big Ten. It's just great strength in the conference right now.
And to have Michael Lihrman, Danny Block throw 64 plus feet over the weekend, that was huge for us. Danny was struggling a little bit after surgery back in the fall. He seems to be coming back into great form right at the right time.
The conference is very strong across the board in field events.
Question: Besides Cato in the multi-events, the men's side has Double Z, Zach Ziemek, and the women's, Deanna Latham. Both of them are looking for strong marks at this weekend's Big Ten meet. How have those two gotten better during your time here?
Byrne: Well, Double Z, as we call Zach Ziemek, he seems to always rise to the occasion on the big meet. He's kind of been a little dormant this year, but he has not competed in the hep yet.
But expect some big things from Zach. He's a guy that feeds off Cato. When those two get out there on Friday and begin competition, I think we're going to see some good things from both of them.
Zach just marvels in the bigger the event, the better for him. I'm kind of excited to see him take his we've got I guess the big thing this weekend with these guys is kind of cooling their jets a little bit and making sure that they focus on putting their energy where they need to put it in and kind of cooling the jets on them when they don't need to get too excited.
But, yeah, I mean, Zach has just improved immensely over the last couple of years.
Question: Do you like having this at a neutral site, Mick?
Byrne: Yeah, I'm an old guy, old fashioned ways. I kind of go along with Coach Nuttycombe, who was a strong advocate for having it on college campuses.
I like competition. I think at the Big Ten meet it's not about times, it's not about distances or height; it's more about the competition.
I think we're getting away from that in our sport. There's plenty of opportunities during the season to compete on the (indiscernible) tracks, the oversized tracks, the hydraulic tracks, but I like being on an institution's campus for the Big Ten meet. And find out when you get there and get into the heat of the battle being on the 300 meter track can be fun.
It's unusual. Our kids aren't always familiar with it. They're not familiar with the zones. They're not familiar with the markings. But I think it's here to stay.