Nov. 11, 2013
• Byrne News Conference
MADISON, WIS. -- Wisconsin director of track & field and cross country addressed the media on Monday to discuss the upcoming NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Friday.
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: We're very excited about being back home this week running the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet. Our athletes love to compete at home.
On the men's side, we did very well a few weeks ago at the adidas meet running at home. And guys are very, very excited. As are our women. I was speaking this morning with Coach Stintzi, we feel both teams are in a pretty good position to advance to the NCAAs. We've accumulated some points for the at large consideration and feel pretty good about that. It kind of takes a little bit of the pressure off.
On the women's side, certainly, we have a great opportunity to make amends for the Big Ten Championships, and I guess we do on the men's side also. But on the women's side, we have this opportunity, and the window doesn't always open up. And having some points kind of eases the pressure, as I said.
But we're going to have to run real well. We're going to have to have five girls on the same page on the same day, and going to certainly have to finish in the top four or five teams.
We certainly believe that's a possibility and looking forward to that opportunity to, as I say, make amends for last week's Big Ten Championships.
On the men's side, it's a great opportunity, I always say. You know, the great thing about our sport is we get to do it again and get that opportunity to take on Indiana and Michigan, and certainly some other great teams in the region like Notre Dame. They're certainly looking to come in here and qualify for the NCAA meet.
So all around we say to our student athletes, you know, you get knocked off the horse a bit and we certainly did at the Big Tens, but again, having that opportunity to make amends and do it all over again is kind of exciting.
Question: A couple weeks ago, you mentioned some of the fun that people were having on message boards and things like that. Care to mention any bulletin board material you guys might carry into this weekend?
Byrne: I'm staying off the message boards. I think it bit me in the butt the last time. But kids are looking forward to being at home. They're excited about this opportunity.
Qualifying for the NCAA meet is a big deal, both for the men and women. It means we're not going to pay a lot of attention to what anyone else is saying. We know what we have to do. We have to be very solid on Friday. We have to get five men and five women on the same page, competing hard, and represent the university.
Question: How has Malachy grown as a runner this year?
Byrne: Obviously, he's Big Ten champion as a freshman. Having had the opportunity earlier this year to run at the World Cross Country Championships and represent the United States I think he has done amazing and it has given him a tremendous amount of confidence. And he's taken that confidence into his training the latter part of his freshman academic year and through the summer, and we saw the result of that this past weekend.
He's running with great maturity and confidence. The way he handles the explosive injection of pace at the Big Ten meet shows an incredible maturity in a young man who's still only a freshman.
So I think certainly the strength that he gained from this past year redshirting, having that opportunity to redshirt, having the opportunity to go to Poland and represent the United States has just taken him to another level. I think, in our sport, confidence is huge.
Question: The course, the Zimmer Championship Course, do you have an edge on that course? Obviously, with your familiarity, but over the other teams that you're competing against, trying to get to NCAAs?
Byrne: I don't think our sport is any different than basketball, football or hockey or soccer. I think anytime you're at home, you feel very comfortable. We don't have to travel. We don't have to sleep in a hotel the night before.
Guys feel pretty good about it. We train on the course. Our guys were out there yesterday. It's in tremendous shape. And, of course, you get an opportunity to run at home in front of your fans.
We saw it out at the adidas meet. We had a lot of fans out there. That certainly helps. When you're going through a rough patch in a race and you've got a whole bunch of people cheering you on, makes it a little easier and helps you get through those bad patches. I certainly think it's an advantage.
Question: You coached a lot of good ones over the last couple of years, but how does Malachy compare to guys like Mohammed and Maverick last year, guys like that?
Byrne: He certainly as a freshman, being Big Ten champion, we haven't had that around here in quite a while. When you look down the list of great distance runners that we've had here at the university that were not able to accomplish and become a Big Ten champion, accomplish what Malachy did last week, I mean time will tell how good he is. Time will tell when there's still going to be a lot of running to do next Friday and also at the NCAA Championships.
So we'll see. We've had some great freshmen perform very well at the NCAA meet. So we'll see.
My wish for Malachy is to continue to get strong, continue to improve, and down the road, in the next year or two, I think we'll see what he is capable of doing. But I'm trying to ease the pressure off him right now at this point.
Question: So this is a chance to make amends. What could they have done differently at Big Tens? What do you hope they do differently here at the regional?
Byrne: I think at the Big Tens, it was as I said, the pace was pretty pedestrian for the first 5K, and there was a huge injection of the pace, explosion of pace right around 5 between 5 and 6K. I think we, as a team, as a group, jumped it too quickly. We got too excited and threw ourselves out front too early and put a target on our back.
We had Indiana and certainly Michigan first, but then Indiana second. Saw that move and took their time of adjusting to the move where we were a little bit less patient than the other teams, and I think that kicked us in the butt over the last 800 meters.
I think we can learn from that experience, and I think these young guys will do that. They know that, hey, the streak's over. It's a Big Ten streak. And that's kind of taken some pressure off them, and I think going into this week, it's just a matter of, hey, let's execute a good race plan, and we can advance to the national meet.
Question: You mentioned a couple times about the Big Ten, and you sound motivated by what happened at the Big Ten. How much can that emotion help or hinder a runner? You're not asking them to run through a brick wall, but obviously to run.
Byrne: I think going into the Big Ten, there was just around the locker room, or listening to this group from the first day of preseason, the common theme was who wants to be on a team that loses the Big Ten? Obviously, no one does. And I think for some guys, that was a huge burden. For other guys, obviously, Malachy, it wasn't. He embraced that.
It's behind them now. Before we got off the bus, my talk to the guys was 'Hey, this is done. The minute we get off the bus, we prepare for what's coming up down the road, and that's the regional meet and the national meet.' To dwell on it wouldn't make a lot of sense. I think it's motivated them to certainly I don't think that Indiana or Michigan were that much better than us. I just think they outsmarted us.
Question: On the men's side, having run against Indiana and Michigan just a couple weeks ago, what can the guys learn from that experience, physically with how those teams run, going into this Friday?
Byrne: Again, I think it's they know the guys. They know them a little bit better. They know what those guys are capable of doing. Not that they didn't know them going into the Big Ten meet, it's just it was a different race. It was a race that we weren't used to running. I don't think Michigan or Indiana were used to that type of race neither. They just did a better job than us over the last kilometer.
Certainly, I think the matchups, it's a pretty exciting matchup. I think it's going to be a great team race on Friday. Although, you know, the main objective is to qualify for the national meet. Everybody will be playing some cards and being a little bit cagey, as we always are at this meet, because ultimately first and second columns go automatically, but there's still opportunities for third and fourth place teams in this meet, because of the points accumulation for at large, a consideration.
So there will be a lot some tactics will come into play, but there will be I don't like playing the tactics game. We haven't done that in the last 12 years at this meet, and we've won it. I'd rather be an automatic qualifier than to have to wait for that phone call on Saturday evening.
Yeah, I think the guys have learned an awful lot from it and looking forward to, again, this opportunity.