Oct. 25, 2012
MADISON, Wis. – Which team will show up on Sunday?
That is the question UW head coach Jim Stintzi wants answered as the Badgers travel to East Lansing, Mich., for the 2012 Big Ten Championship.
It was a good start to the season for Wisconsin, which opened with three-consecutive victories and had an impressive seventh-place finish at the NCAA championship preview meet in Louisville, Ky., where the top five Badger runners finished within 42 seconds of one another.
The Badgers hit a road block on Oct. 12 when they finished 30th at their own Wisconsin adidas Invitational. Stintzi was frustrated with the way his team performed, pointing to the large time gap of 1 minute, 32 seconds from its first-to fifth-place finisher -- much larger than the previous meet’s 42-second gap.
So which Wisconsin team will be at the line when the Badgers hit the course Sunday? Will it be the Badgers that opened the season and ran to a top-10 finish at the NCAA preview meet or will it be the team that finished in 30th place at home?
“The question that I would pose to our team is which team is going to show up?” Stintzi said. “If we have a squad of one to five of 30-50 seconds, we should be in the mix. If we have the team that showed up for our home invitational, it would be not so pretty.”
After a win last Friday at the Oshkosh Open and good practices this week, Stintzi is confident that his team is ready to bounce back and open the championship season with a strong start.
“I feel pretty good about the workouts and how everybody is doing and the fact that the Big Ten meet is a much different meet than a 48-team meet,” Stintzi said. “It's much easier to find your teammates and see where you need to be.”
The competition is tough with No. 7 Michigan, No. 13 Penn State, No. 15 Michigan State and No. 25 Minnesota in attendance, but Stintzi is confident that his team is ready to compete.
“I think Michigan has the up-front power this year. They've got three outstanding runners. Michigan State, Penn State were really balanced leading into two weeks ago. I would say we're probably the fourth-best team,” Stintzi said. “Minnesota is a strong team as well.
“So I think it's Michigan's to lose, but I think there are other teams that could come through. I think it will be close again.”
Wisconsin will have help from three of its top five finishers from last season’s Big Ten championship. Senior Ashley Beutler, sophomore Gabrielle Anzalone and senior Hanna Knurr have posted strong performances this season and can use their veteran experience to lead the team to a strong finish.
At last year’s meet, the Badgers placed fourth, their highest finish since 2008. The trio contributed to Wisconsin’s success, with Beultler finishing in 16th place, Anzalone placing 20th as a true freshman and Knurr taking 33rd.
The Badgers hope to have a similar result when they take on the competition at the Forest Akers East Golf Course at 9:45 a.m. (CT) on Sunday.
Following the Big Ten championship, Wisconsin returns home to the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course on Friday, Nov. 9, where it will host the 2012 NCAA Great Lakes Regional.