Oct. 14, 2013
• Byrne News Conference
MADISON, WIS. -- Wisconsin director of track & field and cross country addressed the media on Monday to discuss the upcoming adidas Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 19.
Video of the press conference is above, while a transcript of Byrne's press conference is below.
UW Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Mick Byrne: I'm very excited about the cross country world coming to Madison this weekend. I always look on the Adidas meet as the turning point of the season getting ready for a championship season.
That gives us all an opportunity to see how our personnel are doing and see how we stack up against the rest of the teams in the country.
It's a great opportunity, I believe, for our fans, and everybody knows that Wisconsin cross country fans are awesome. They're very knowledgeable and very opinionated. We're excited to run at home this weekend in such a great, high caliber meet.
As Brian said, five of the top ten men's teams and five of the top ten women's teams will be in the field, and I believe it is 20 of the top 30 teams on the men's side and 18 of the top 30 teams on the women's side. When you get those type of numbers put together, obviously, it's a very exciting race.
Our kids are right now they know it's Adidas week. It means just a different atmosphere around the locker room, out on the practice field, and the kids are very excited about it.
Question: It's been a while since the men have raced. What can we kind of expect out of the Badger men this weekend?
Byrne:: That's a good question. You should go down to the locker room this afternoon. I'm sure the guys will tell you they're really looking forward to it.
Three weeks from the meet up in Boston, and I think the guys are we're in a better spot today than we were two weeks ago. Got rid of some injuries that we were carrying into Boston, and just go along with our training philosophy, we believe that we need to be better as the weeks go along through the season.
I'm not sure that we particularly did anything different just because it's the Adidas meet, but certainly the guys are very excited about it.
You may see a change of personnel up front from the guys that spent July and August, early September logging out big miles. By now they're starting to get those miles out of their legs. We may see a switch in personnel up front, which we're hoping for, obviously.
Question: You hear a lot about home ice advantage, home court advantage, and so forth. What's the advantage to running at home in cross country?
Byrne: Well, certainly, we train at the Zimmer cross country course. We're out there once, twice a week, normally for a workout and also for a long run. We know every twist and turn. Guys just feel comfortable. It's no different than any other sport.
There's obviously a big advantage when you start running in a meet of this caliber, when you look at the number of nationally ranked teams, it just kicks things up a notch as opposed to like an invitational like in Boston. And obviously, running in front of our fans. A lot of crazy, as I said, knowledgeable, opinionated Wisconsin Badger fans, and the guys love that, and the girls love running at home.
I think on the girls side, it the more, Hey, grandma's here, mom and dad are here. On the guys' side, it's more, Hey, we're running against Arkansas. We're running against Michigan. We're running against Michigan State. I know some Big Ten schools, some top 12 schools.
On the women's side, it's just a little different. They understand the level of competition is a completely different level from the last couple of weeks, but it gives them the opportunity to run at home in front of mom and dad, in front of grandma and boyfriend.
Question: Mick, to what degree are either one of these programs rebuilding?
Byrne: I don't know if I've used that word. I don't think Coach Stintzi has.
Let me address the women's side first. I don't think we're rebuilding at all. I absolutely believe this is one of the best women's teams that we've had in the last five or six years, really coming together.
We had a few mishaps up in Boston. Gabby Anzalone wasn't had a little crisis a couple of days prior to. She was hospitalized overnight one day and certainly didn't run her best. I think it just knocked some confidence out of her. She's 100 percent.
And also Kelly Whitley had to run on a lot of gravel in the meet in Hancock Park, and she got a stone in her shoe. If Gabby and Kelly Whitley ran the way I believe they're and Coach Stintzi believes they're capable, we certainly would have knocked off a couple of nationally ranked teams.
I'm very excited about this weekend with the women. I think you're going to see a great run with our women's team. I think they're going to surprise a lot of programs out there.
On the men's side, yes, if you were to believe what the social media pundits are saying about the University of Wisconsin, we're down and we're out, but I certainly don't come to work every day believing that. I think we're going to surprise teams. Don't ever underestimate the heart of the Badger. I've said that since day one.
And I'm kind of excited about getting out there this weekend and showing that we are a much better team than two weeks ago. Look, everybody knows, when you lose five All Americans from a team in the last year we've got some young guys that have been in the wings waiting to go.
Malachy Schrobilgen, I think from Illinois, the Illinois State Champion 3,200 meters, he's looking to burst on the scene. Looking for him to have a great run.
We've got two freshmen. Big question whether we're going to run them, but Division I Champion Ryan Kromer from Hudson, Wisconsin, this kid is ready to go, and it's just a matter of whether we're going to open him up this weekend at the Adidas meet and put him on the national stage or whether we're going to wait until the Big Ten, and the same with a couple of other freshmen.
Carl Hirsch, out of Brookfield East, has probably had the best training of any of the freshmen over the last five or six weeks, and, again, the big question mark is do we have the courage to run a freshman like Carl and Ryan Kromer?
I don't look at it as rebuilding. Yeah, we're trying to replace guys like Mo Ahmed, one of the top systems runners in the world. We're trying to replace Maverick Darling and Reed Connor. Those young guys need some time to breathe, some time to get some experience under their belt.
But they know exactly what it means to be a Badger. They know exactly what's expected of them down the road here, and it's just going to be a matter of whether Coach Byrne has the courage to put these young guys out there right now on the national stage this week or whether we're going to hold off.
Question: I guess this is kind of the last meet before Big Ten. How are you going to use this as a stepping stone to Big Tens and beyond?
Byrne: They're two different beasts. This is the biggest invitational meet in the country. Again, look at the 20 nationally ranked teams on the men's side and 18 on the women's side. It's just a lot more individuals.
When you come down to the Big Ten meets, it's 100 competitors. It's more head to head. It's no different like, say, our football guys down in the back, it's no different than what they go through on Saturday, a lot of elbows, a lot of pushing, a lot of trash talking. It's just a different beast.
This weekend, there's over 375 competitors running. Yeah, it will get physical out there, and if you're not ready for that, then you're probably going to get beat down a little bit. But with the numbers the numbers games play into the whole team part.
We look on this as, hey, the last invitational before we go to Big Ten meet. Big Ten's a completely different beast. When you get to the line at the Big Ten Championships and you've got the record that we have, 14 straight Big Ten titles, as I said earlier, don't ever underestimate the heart of the Badger.
Question: How has the meet kind of grown during your time?
Byrne: I think a lot of it has to do with two, three years ago the pre Nationals was the big meet. You were required to go there to score points. We took the pre National concept and put it into one individual race. I think coaches and athletes like that.
It's head to head competition. You're not comparing two races, an A and a B race, which is always very hard to do. The coaches like the concept.
We did move it obviously to Friday. A lot of coaches and athletes like that. It gives them Saturday to recover and then come out and train hard on Sunday.
A couple of factors played into it, but certainly the fact that we go head to head at 35 teams, last year it was 40. 30, it just gives everybody an opportunity. It's not two situations, an A race and a B race, and you're trying to compare times from two different races.