VERONA, Wis. — Third-ranked Wisconsin began its 2011 season at the Zimmer Championship Course on Friday, earning a second-place team finish at the Badger Opener.
The Badgers were led by sophomore Drew Shields, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, who legged out the individual win with a time of 18 minutes, 20 seconds for the 6-kilometer race.
“I had to throw in a kick at the end, otherwise I would’ve gotten second,” Shields said after having to chase down and edge out Marquette senior Blake Johnson. “It wouldn’t have been good to chase [Johnson] that far and not win.”
Being the first event of the season, newcomers got their first taste of running with the Badgers.
“I know we’ve been strong in workouts, but their legs were probably really tired,” Shields said. “You’re fighting through that this part of the year. Everyone’s legs are tired, but you just train through it.”
One of the newcomers, freshman Alex Hatz, had a great showing in his first run returning from injury that held him out of track competition last spring, finishing with a time of 18:28.5 and earning a fourth-place finish.
Finishing with a team score of 29, Wisconsin fell just short of Marquette, which finished with a team score of 26. Edgewood College claimed third with a team score of 80.
Marquette’s Spencer Agnew and Connor Callahan were vital in the Golden Eagles’ victory, as the two were able to overtake and finish ahead of UW’s Neal Berman and Jake Erschen.
UW head coach Mick Byrne understood it was the first meet for many of his runners, but ultimately came away disappointed in the overall performance from his team.
“Look at the team score. That says it all,” Byrne said of his team’s performance. “(We) ran a lot of young guys, who probably have a lot of miles in their legs, and you expect them to be hurting out there, but I didn’t quite expect the response from a few guys over that last [kilometer] when things started getting a little rough.
“Drew did a good job,” Byrne said of Shields. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get the support that we expected some of those guys to give him and he had to take off and leave the group.”