May 21, 2012
• Watch Davis News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin women's track and field assistant coach Nate Davis took part in UW Athletics' weekly news conference on Monday to provide updates on the Badgers and preview this weekend's 2012 NCAA Preliminaries.
Archived video of Davis' session from the news conference, as well as a complete transcript of his remarks, are available below.
QUESTION 1: Maybe you could put into perspective for us the quality of those three women in the heptathlon, could you compare them to someone on campus? Could you give people an idea of who they might be like in terms of how good they are?
DAVIS: Good question. We had a talk at the meet, Andy. One of the things we talked about, Wisconsin is a great football school. People sometimes look at the multi-events, the combined events, whether it's the men's or women's side, and they don't really have a perspective for how talented these kids are.
And I think one of the things I said to you at the meet is that having those three women on our team in the same event would be similar to having Montee Ball, John Clay and Michael Bennett all in the same backfield on a football team. I think that's as close as I can get for someone maybe watching that doesn't really know the quality of that.
They're NCAA qualifiers. They're school record-holders, and they're Olympic trials qualifiers and that's a pretty cool thing.
QUESTION 2: Jessica Flax, obviously she's had one heck of a career so far. When she goes into these individual events, too, is that a different mindset, I suppose, than just going in as a heptathlete?
DAVIS: It's a lot easier, I think. For example, this meet this week, we talked about it at practice the other day, she and Deanna are ranked fairly high. But they go into a preliminary round when they've already qualified at the NCAA championships kind of as an opportunity to dress up some of their skills. We talked about it at practice yesterday.
I don't think all three of them have run in a field in the hurdles as good as they're about to run at in the preliminary round when you know that every woman in that round is going to be sub-13.85. When you line up in the heptathlon, you have to run a safe race. You need points out of it. You can't exactly put the pedal to the medal. Deanna, at the (Big Ten) meet, came off the seventh hurdle and had to put the brakes on, make some adjustments because you want to make sure you finish that race.
Sometimes a tenth (of a second), which is only worth about 12 points, isn't worth it if you might fall. So going to Austin and being able to line up with some women who just hurdle and really seeing what you can do is a great opportunity.
QUESTION 3: Question about the throwers, both Taylor (Smith) and Kelsey (Card), I guess they could probably learn from what transpired a couple weeks ago. Because I know having spoken with Taylor she was gung-ho for that meet big time, and I'm sure it didn't turn out the way she hoped.
DAVIS: They're both fantastic competitors. They're both completely dedicated to what's best for the team and helping the team out. And you get to the Big Ten meet and the NCAA first round and the finals and you're going against the best in the world.
You have women ranked in the top 20 at this meet we're heading to who are in the top 50 in the world. And their competitive throws they threw at the Big Ten meet would win most Big Ten meets in the past. That's just as Ed noted, the level that the Big Ten has come to, if you look at -- it was just released this afternoon -- the total number of first preliminary round entries that the Big Ten has is first on the men's side and second on the women's side.
That tells you the depth, when you have over 280 entries at the first round of the NCAA championships, those 283 entries all competed last week at the Big Ten meet.
You can do a little easy math and go through how many events we have at the meet and how many places score, and it really gives you a sense of how competitive it is.
So they showed up and they put their best effort forward, and we're glad to have them.
QUESTION 4: You talked about depth going into this meet, and how much does that help when you've got seven distance runners that are used to training together, practicing together, competing together, your heptathletes, the same thing, and three or four throwers; how big is it to have their teammates beside them in a meet like this?
DAVIS: It's huge. First, as coaches we don't have class anymore. You're asking kids when they can come to practice and, they don't have anything else going on. But when you only have one athlete in an event and it's you and them every day coming off a season where they're at practice with four or five kids, it's different.
So to do a tempo run with two or three women, or to come out and get in the ring and take some throws with other people there, it's a huge advantage. It feels more natural. It's more relaxing. And it's fun. And that's what we want to do, we want to make this environment conducive for improving at this point of the year. We still have -- if we go through the Olympic trials -- five weeks left. And you want them to come to practice and make it feel like they're an honor to be here and they can compete well in the next couple of weeks.
QUESTION 5: For some of the athletes, it's no big deal because they compete every week, but for some of these events how tough is the turnaround of going from the Big Ten meet to the preliminary round to the NCAA championships, potentially, and competing three times in about five weeks?
DAVIS: It's a great question, and I think it's a lot harder for the distance runners. One of the things that we've encountered as coaching staffs, the last three years that we've had the preliminary round and especially that we've had to run a 10K, is you really have to start thinking about what's in the best interests of the athlete as opposed to the team needs at a conference meet.
In the past, you could look at your event schedule and kind of load everything up, knowing that maybe it's a direct qualifier to the NCAA championships. The new situation we're faced with is you've got to make some decisions here and there. You're not going to have your best 10K runner going to put an unbelievable effort out there. Also, because eighth place is a lot better than it used to be, they've got to run fast now.
There was a time where if you were the best in the 10K, the 5K especially, you could show up at the meet and you know it's a three-person race and you're going to hang out there and sometimes your effort and your skill level is so good that you can win.
And that's just in the last five or six years. Now, you show up to run a 10K and you've got to bring it. And to ask someone to do that and bounce back two weeks later, do it again, and then two weeks later do it again at the NCAA championships, you may be sacrificing the rest of that athlete's career to get a little something out of them.
So to answer your question, it's challenging. And the heptathlon, we only do a couple every year. So like I mentioned earlier going to the first round having some open events is kind of relaxing. But it's an event-by-event type thing.