Badgers set sights on 8th-straight Big Ten Championship

first_imgThe University of Wisconsin men?s track team has a lot to prove this upcoming weekend at the Big Ten Indoor Track Championships. The two-day event will be hosted this Saturday and Sunday at the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center in Madison.Unlike last year when the Big Ten Championship seemed like a guarantee for UW, this year will be more of a challenge. The Badgers? competition is much stronger, with a number of viable opponents contending for the title.?I think there?s about five teams on paper that have an outside shot [to win the title],? UW coach Ed Nuttycombe said. ?We?re glad to be one of those. We do have some guys that are running well, as far as the distance runners go, and we?ve made some steps here in the last couple weeks that make us contenders.?Nuttycombe explained that while Michigan currently may be the best team on paper, Purdue and Wisconsin are right there with them. Minnesota and Penn State, who have legitimate talent themselves, should also be competitive this weekend.After losing 13 seniors from last year?s championship team, the 13th-ranked Badgers look to their younger athletes to defend their streak of seven straight Big Ten indoor titles.The youth movement starts with freshman David Grzesiak, who has proven to be a valid replacement of last year?s heptathlon winner, senior Joe Detmer. Grzesiak has the second-best point total in the conference thus far, and his performance over the season has been consistent. Sophomores Brandon Bethke (3000 meter) and Jack Bolas (mile) have the best times in conference in their respective events.UW?s strength is in its distance runners, where depth is not a concern.?David Grzesiak has done a great job in the multi, and the young distance runners are exceptionally talented,? Nuttycombe said. ?We?ve got five guys that are 4:03 or better in the mile, and the oldest one is a sophomore.?Even with their new talent, the fact remains that the 2008 Badgers are young. With four All-Americans graduating from last year?s remarkable season, including sprinter Demi Omole, a void still lingers in a previously deep area.?With Demi Omole graduating from last year, we really don?t have any sprinters,? Nuttycombe said. ?We?ve got some middle distance runners, we?ve got some jumpers, but if it?s a weakness, it?s sprints. But we knew that going in, and it hasn?t changed.?For a majority of the season, Michigan was the only Big Ten team to be nationally ranked. With recent success, however, the Badgers leapfrogged the Wolverines to secure the No. 13 spot in the national rankings this past week. Such a large jump stemmed from the record-breaking performances of Bethke and Bolas, who highlight Wisconsin’s talented distance runners. The two stars have taken home back-to-back Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors.The pressure is on Saturday, as the Badgers look to defend their title with the thought of eight consecutive championships looming in the back of the team’s mind. The outcome does not rest on the fate of a few runners. Wisconsin has competed very well so far in both the 4 x 400 meter relay and the 4000 meter medley, and the heptathlon has been another strong point for the team.In addition, home field advantage could be a difference-maker for the cardinal and white, as a ?sea of red? will push the athletes to excel.?We hope to at least be able to go into a meet with a chance, and I think we do, and it?s at home, so hopefully we take advantage of that,? Nuttycombe said. ?This year we are counting on the younger guys a little more than we have in the past, but we?re counting on all of them. I think these guys are very competitive as it is. They thrive under pressure. And as I said before, we?re at home, and I think it makes it more fun, more challenging.?last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *