Nov. 15, 2011
-- Wisconsin women's cross country head coach Jim Stintzi
reflected on the Badgers' at-large bid to their 24th NCAA appearance and their first since 2008, during his press conference Monday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Byrne's remarks can be found below.
STINTZI: Obviously we're excited about the opportunity to compete at the NCAA championships and we were excited to learn about the bid on Sunday. We're looking forward to going in and competing at the highest level. We are healthy and have our complete team now for the first time, I guess, since maybe starting with the Big Ten championships. We're looking forward to seeing if we can improve on our ranking, and see if we can come home with some All-Americans.
QUESTION #1: Hey, Coach, what do you feel like this experience can do for your team going forward? I know you guys aren't in the upper echelon of the teams there, but do you feel like this can help your runners going into next year?
STINTZI: Well, the great thing about cross country or any postseason tournament, especially something that's held one day, is that anything can happen. So ranking, I mean, you don't get a chance to run against, it's different than a basketball tournament or bowl games where you look at teams from different sides of the country. Everybody is going to line up on the same day. And their rankings don't mean anything, what happened previously doesn't mean anything.
So we're going to go there Monday, not thinking, 'Oh, you know, we're whatever ... we're an at large, we didn't make an automatic.' We're going to go in there, and we're going to race to the best of our ability. And we're not going to say, well, this is going to be a step forward for next year.
It's going to be an opportunity for those people, whether it's Caitlin Comfort, whether it's Ashley Beutler or Gabi Anzalone, who's first time at the meet it is. It's a chance to achieve something on Monday. We're not going to look at it as sort of a step forward; we're going to look at as an end to this season. And then after that, maybe we'll re-evaluate.
QUESTION #2: Speaking of Caitlin, what type of season has she had for you guys and what has she meant to your program?
STINTZI: Well, she's been incredibly consistent, and that's a big statement in our sport and our gender. To be a four-time All-Big Ten, four-time all-region athlete, to be kind of the leader of the team since early on in her career, she's been a tremendous sort of steadying influence, especially for our young and our new athletes. We have some new athletes that aren't necessarily young, but haven't been running at this level before.
So she is the rock that everybody can look to and say, OK, Caitlin is consistent. She's a consistent trainer. She's a great leader. She brings her A-game to practice every day. She brings her A-game to each meet. And I think that has been something that other women on the team have seen and emulated and changed a little bit because of her.
QUESTION #3: Jim, with Gabby and Kyla Chapman, and Hanna Knurr coming in, you've got a very different lineup than you've had. How well does that group mesh together, in competition I think we've seen, but in training, and to get to that point in competition?
STINTZI: They have been tremendous at coming together as a team. It's true with any team, certainly true in a sport like cross country where your weakest link can bring you down. If you don't have a fifth runner, you can be in big trouble. So it's important that everybody is on the same page.
As you saw with our men this week where they kind of all ran together across the finish line, you need to have some of that team camaraderie to keep some of the egos in check. So the fact that we have a group of girls, or women, who are running together, who are training together, who are on the same page, has made a tremendous difference.
We had some losses last year that were substantial. I don't think people thought we were a very good team coming back this year. But the fact that Caitlin and Ashley and Kyla came in being older, juniors and seniors, and brought a steadying influence has really brought the team together. It has been a great experience to work with them. I think they would all agree that it has been a great experience just growing together as a team.
QUESTION #4: At what point did you kind of figure out you might have a pretty good team on your hands?
STINTZI: Well, early on in the season I saw in the training that we were doing things that we were unable to do the two years previous, and things that we had been doing other years that we had done well at the NCAAs and the Big Ten championship. So I knew that we had a good team. It was really difficult this year to get everybody to perform on the same day. And we still haven't yet to be honest with you. We haven't had five people perform really well on the same day.
But once we got past that adidas Invitational bump, and we got Kyla on the team, and Ashley was back healthy, and everybody was training together as a group, I knew that we could put it together at the Big Ten meet and at the regionals.
Now, with that said, I still think we have a way to go. Even though there's a week left in the season, we have some things that we could improve on dramatically as a team to go from wherever we are supposed to finish this weekend to being a very competitive team. And whether we do that or not, the potential is there.