May 8, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- Two months’ work has led to this for the Wisconsin women’s track and field team.
The Badgers officially begin championship season this weekend as they travel to Columbus, Ohio, for the 2013 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Wisconsin will look to compete among the conference’s best and improve upon last year’s fifth-place finish when the competition begins Friday at noon at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
The Badgers return eight athletes that scored points at the 2012 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Senior Dorcas Akinniyi already has a Big Ten outdoor title on her resume after winning the 2010 conference crown in the heptathlon. It’s one of her four career Big Ten championships.
“We've all been hitting kind of season PRs, or PRs in general, the last couple weeks of the season,” UW head coach Jim Stintzi said. “Our throwers are on fire right now. Deanna (Latham) and Dorcas (Akinniyi) are always ready to go. The distance runners are doing what they need to do to improve each week.”
Akinniyi -- runner up in the heptathlon at last year’s Big Ten championships -- will compete in the heptathlon this weekend and attempt to give the UW a sweep of the Big Ten’s indoor and outdoor multi-event titles for the fourth-consecutive season. Jessica Flax, who exhausted her eligibility during the indoor season, won the Big Ten pentathlon crown in February.
The heptathlon begins on Friday at 12:15 p.m. with the 100 hurdles and concludes on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. with the 800 meters.
Fellow heptathlete Deanna Latham sits atop the Big Ten in the seven-discipline event and ranks 13th nationally, but the junior will not go head to head with her teammate in the heptathlon. Instead, she will focus on open events -- the 100 hurdles, long jump and javelin. Latham ranks No. 4 in the Big Ten in the hurdles at 13.49 seconds.
“Even though she leads the Big Ten in the heptathlon, she's going to do individual events here and move to the heptathlon for the NCAA championships,” Stintzi said.
In addition, Wisconsin will have strong representation in the throws behind senior Taylor Smith, who heads into the competition ranked in the Big Ten’s top five in three events.
After earning All-America honors in the weight throw at the NCAA indoor meet in March, Smith enters the weekend as the Big Ten leader in the shot put with a mark of 56 feet, 11 inches, a performance that ranks fifth in the nation.
In the Big Ten standings, Smith also ranks No. 4 in the discus with a throw of 177-5 and sits at No. 5 in the hammer throw after breaking the Wisconsin school record with a mark of 193-0 at last Saturday’s Wisconsin Open.
Sophomore Angela Boushea and junior Abby Lueck will join Smith in the hammer throw, while sophomore Kelsey Card will compete alongside Smith in both the discus and shot put.
After recording top marks on Saturday, Lueck ranks sixth in conference standings after throwing 188-5, while Boushea recorded an effort of 187-8 and stands at No. 9 in the Big Ten.
Card ranks third in the conference in the discus with a season-best throw of 178-7 and comes in at No. 5 in the shot put with a mark of 52-0.
The hammer throw will be held on Friday, while the shot put takes place on Saturday and the discus will close out the competition on Sunday.
A pair of seniors, Caitlin Comfort and Ashley Beutler, leads Wisconsin in the distance events.
The reigning 2013 Big Ten indoor champion in the 5000 meters, Comfort currently ranks fifth in the event after recording a career-best time of 16:18.05 at Stanford’s Payton Jordan Invitational on April 28.
Comfort will not only try to add the outdoor 5000 meters crown to her resume on Sunday, but is entered to race the 10,000 meters on Friday as well.
Even though the double will difficult, Stintzi is confident that Comfort is more than ready to race in both events.
“I don't want to put a lot of undue pressure on Caitlin, but I think she could win both the 5K and 10K,” Stintzi said. “I think she's the best longer distance runner in this conference if you look year-in and year-out.
“She's the only woman in the conference to make it to the finals last year in the NCAA championships outdoors. I think she's ready to go.”
Joining Comfort in the 5000 meters will be senior Hanna Knurr, while redshirt freshman Gabrielle Anzalone will line up alongside Comfort in the 10,000 meters.
Additionally, Beutler will take to the track to compete in the 3000 steeplechase on Saturday.
Beutler ranks seventh in the event with the time of 10:27.24 and will try to better her third-place finish from the 2012 Big Ten championships