UW Health Sports Medicine 

Wisconsin ready to begin season at home with Badger Opener

ON WISCONSIN <b>Ashley Beutler was the Badgers' top finisher at the NCAA championship last season.</b>
Ashley Beutler was the Badgers' top finisher at the NCAA championship last season.

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin women’s cross country team opens its season Friday by hosting the Badger Opener — a 5-kilometer race against Central Michigan and Edgewood College — at 5 p.m. at the Zimmer Championship Course.

The No. 29-ranked Badgers, who qualified for the NCAA championship as a team last season, hope to have another successful year with help from their top returning runners. Sophomore Gabrielle Anzalone, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, will return along with seniors Hanna Knurr and Ashley Beutler.

Anzalone and Knurr were part of a trio, along with Dani Fischer, which provided three-fifths of the Badgers’ scoring at the last year’s NCAA meet. Head coach Jim Stintzi expects to see Beutler, Anzalone and Knurr at the front.

“When you come off a good season, or a relatively good season, that's going to motivate you to do the work during the summer so you can come off a good season and make it even better,” Beutler said.

Every member of the team will participate in the Badger Opener. The UW’s early-season meets will help determine who will join the trio to round out the Badgers’ top five.

“The biggest thing for us at this point is trying to find who can keep up with that lead group,” said Stintzi, who must find replacements for Fischer and Caitlin Comfort, the Big Ten runner-up last season and a senior-to-be on the track in the spring.

“We’re going to need some girls to step up and some fill holes without Caitlin there,” Beutler said. “It’s definitely going to be very hard.”

The Badgers will be tested with a stretch of four consecutive weeks of competition starting with the opener Friday. The team hopes to qualify for the NCAA meet for a second-consecutive season.

“I’m excited to see who can make a jump and just where this team can go,” Stintzi said.

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