UW Health Sports Medicine 

Badgers turn attention to Big Ten championship

Race Photo

Nov. 1, 2013

2013 Big Ten Championships Central

MADISON, Wis. -- Championship season has officially arrived for the No. 28-ranked Wisconsin women’s cross country team, as the Badgers will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday for the 2013 Big Ten Championship.

The 6-kilometer race is scheduled to begin at 10:45 a.m. (CT) and will feature a Wisconsin team that cracked the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) rankings for the first time this year.

This season, UW has exceeded expectations, winning three meets, finishing second at the Badger Open and placing fifth at the competitive Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown.

“The last two and a half weeks have been exciting,” said Wisconsin Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Mick Byrne in a press conference Monday. “We’ve seen a lot of improvements and growth.”

Byrne believes the team is coming together at the right time after a 17th-place performance at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.

For the first time in a few weeks, junior Gabi Anzalone, the team’s leader and most experienced runner, will be at full strength and completely healthy.

“Having Gabi back for the Big Ten is exciting,” Byrne said. “Having her back at full strength is going to make the team a lot stronger. Gabi is a different athlete today than she was three weeks ago. She has had two awesome workouts in the last seven days and her confidence is back. Gabi should be the leader, I expect her to be the leader this week because we are going to need her to be.”

Sophomore Emma-Lisa Murphy and freshman Sarah Disanza have put together impressive seasons of their own and will look to join Anzalone at the front of the pack on Sunday.

Murphy, who has finished first or second for UW in each of her three races this season, placed second for the Badgers and 61st overall at the adidas invite on Oct. 19. A month ago in Boston, the sophomore finished 10th overall and first for UW against tough competition to earn Big Ten Women’s Cross Country Co-Runner of the Week honors.

Disanza, who has also never finished worse than second in 2013, ran like a veteran and led Wisconsin at the adidas invite, finishing 42nd overall. The freshman hopes to make her first Big Ten Championship race a memorable one.

Byrne believes Anzalone, Murphy and Disanza must lead the team and their performances will help determine where the Badgers finish on Sunday.

“I look forward to Gabi Anzalone joining freshman Sarah Disanza and sophomore Emma-Lisa Murphy, who seem to be out in front in terms of leading the women’s program,” Byrne said. “For us to be successful, we need those three up front and they are capable of going head to head against anybody’s top three.”

Wisconsin will look to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish. Despite losing two of their top three finishers from the 2012 Big Ten meet in Ashley Beutler and Hanna Knurr, the Badgers return Anzalone, who finished seventh, senior Lavinia Jurkiewicz, who finished 61st, senior Theresa Selestow, who placed 65th, as well as Murphy, who was 66th.

Byrne says this Badger team has more depth to it than in recent years, which is necessary to compete at the highest level.

“This past weekend Jurkiewicz had a good run, won up in Oshkosh,” Byrne said. “Sophomore Ariel Michalek was right behind her, and they’re looking to be a solid support. And obviously I think we can get some great support from freshman Molly Hanson, senior Erin Cawley and sophomore Kelly Whitley.”

Byrne wants the group to believe they can contend for the Big Ten title.

“So we’re looking to see the women certainly take on the tough teams of the Big Ten,” Byrne said. “I think it’s a matter of the girls believing that they belong to compete for the Big Ten championship. We’re emphasizing that this week that they do belong there. It’s new for a lot of these women, and hopefully they’ll buy into that and get excited about competing for a Big Ten championship at Purdue this weekend. I am expecting them to run real well.”

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