Comfort zone: Veteran leads strong effort for Badgers on home course


Oct. 14, 2011

2011 Wisconsin adidas Invitational
Zimmer Championship Course • Madison, Wis.
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• Distance: 6 Kilometers
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 Team Results
1. Washington 199
2. Vanderbilt 211
3. Arizona 230
4. Villanova 232
5. Stanford 256
21. Wisconsin 526
 Individual Results
1. Sheila Reid Villanova 20:00
2. Jordan Hasay Oregon 20.02
3. Deborah Maier Cal 20:08
4. Alex Banfich Princeton 20:11
5. Morgan Haws BYU 20:12
29. Caitlin Comfort Wisconsin 20:44
70. Hanna Knurr Wisconsin 21.06
97. Gabrielle Anzalone Wisconsin 21:14
134. Kiah Ehrke Wisconsin 21:31
196. Theresa Selestow Wisconsin 21:52
275. Dani Fischer Wisconsin 22:51
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MADISON, Wis. -- Playing host to one of the biggest meets of the season outside the NCAA championship, it would have been natural for the Wisconsin women's cross country team to feel pressure.

If that was the case, Caitlin Comfort certainly didn't show it.

 Fast Facts
• Senior captain Comfort leads the way for UW
• Badgers take 21st with a score of 526 pts.
• Villanova's Reid wins with new meet record

The Badgers' senior leader and three-time All-Big Ten honoree led the charge for UW at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Friday, clocking in at 20 minutes, 43.7 seconds to earn a strong 29th-place finish in a stacked field.

In fact, the third-annual event on the Badgers' home turf at the Zimmer Championship Course drew 44 teams -- including 19 of the 30 squads ranked in the latest national coaches' poll.

That included No. 24 Washington, which came away with the meet championship by posting a team score of 199 points. Vanderbilt took second with 211 points, followed by No. 14 Arizona in third with a score of 230.

The Badgers came home 21st -- with a team score of 526 -- despite an effort that had them among the top 10 heading into the final two kilometers. That's when Ashley Beutler saw a strong run come to an end due to a leg injury and was forced to drop off the course.

Still, Comfort's performance was an example of the effort from a resurgent Badgers team.

"I just went out and went hard like I always do and found myself in the lead pretty early," Comfort said. "I kind of tried to tuck in behind some girls and just tough it out. I'm really happy with it."

Comfort got off to a great start, making her way to the head of the pack early.

"She found herself in front," UW coach Jim Stintzi said. "She responded really well when the leaders took off, and she ran great."

Comfort maintained her position in the lead pack for most of the race, dropping back only momentarily to fight her way back into the top 30.

"The lead pack pulled away with about 2K to go," Comfort said. "I tried to go with them, but just couldn't do it. I just tried to hang tough.

"I'm happy with my place," she said.

Individual winner Shelia Reid of No. 1-ranked Villanova not only took the win but the meet record, as well. With a time of 19:59.4, Reid trumped 2010 meet champion Charlotte Browning's time of 20:13.

Following Comfort for Wisconsin was junior Hanna Knurr. With her best performance of the season, Knurr ran to a 70th-place finish at 21:06.

"I feel like I did personally really well. I'm very happy with it. It felt great," said Knurr, who joined the Badgers this season after being spotted by Stintzi while competing for the Wisconsin Track Club.
 
Promising freshman Gabrielle Anzalone came home third for the Badgers in 97th place overall in her second collegiate 6K.

Anzalone started strong, pacing with Comfort and started to shift back around the 3K mark.  Junior Kiah Ehrke and sophomore Theresa Selestow made their moves later in the race, pushing up near the end to land themselves in the Wisconsin top five.

Erhke placed 134th with a clocked time of 21:31. Selestow followed at 21:52 for 196th place.

"I feel like our team did really well," Knurr said. "It was a really good showing for us and I feel like we're definitely starting to race the way we train."

The training spoke for itself as success continued to the "B" race that followed the championship competition.  Senior Kyla Chapman competed unattached for a second-place finish of 21:23.

Freshman Jenna McMiller placed 22nd, crossing the finish line at 21:59.

"I feel really good about the progress were making," Stintzi said. "I feel great about the way they approach the season, the way they train together, about the fact that they are a team first.

"I feel really good about that and I think it'll pay dividends at the end of the year."

The Badger will look to begin seeing those dividends as they head to the UW-Oshkosh Open for their final tune-up before Big Ten championship. The race begins at 2 p.m. (CT) on Oct. 21.

ON WISCONSIN
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