Wisconsin wins home invitational
Badgers finish with five runners in the top-20 in the event
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin responded to all the buildup and hype, running away with the team title in convincing fashion, Friday at the Wisconsin Invitational. Senior Ryan Collins took home the top spot for the Badgers, finishing 11th in the 8-kilometer race with a time of 23 minutes, 46 seconds. But, even as the top finisher for his team, Collins knew it was how his team ran as a group that was so impressive.
"We ran pretty much perfect," Collins said. "We got out, kept going nice and relaxed and all of the sudden there's a huge gap and we had five (runners) together."
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Arizona freshman Lawi Lalang had the great individual performance of the day, as he earned the individual victory in record-setting fashion. Finishing with an official time of 23:10, Lalang set new Wisconsin Invitational and Thomas Zimmer Championship Course records, topping the time of 23:29 previously held by Princeton's Donn Cabral in both categories.
Putting aside individual efforts and forming a group early, Wisconsin worked together to finish with a 66-point performance that easily won the meet against a loaded field.
"They were so unselfish," head coach Mick Byrne said of his men. "They put aside their individual goals out there today and said let's all do this as a team."
Finishing just a half-second apart, junior Reed Connor was 12th, senior Elliot Krause 13th and junior Mohammed Ahmed 14th. Junior Maverick Darling was 16th.
Coming off the most intense training they'll see all season, the response from the Badgers didn't go unnoticed as Byrne was encouraged from what he saw.
"Every one of them had that `zap' in their legs for the first 2 kilometers," Byrne said. "That was a little surprising for me to see - but exciting."
With the extra "zap" in their legs, the men were able to group up in the front of the pack early, and work together to hold a team lead they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the race.
"I was surprised," Byrne said. "At about 3 kilometers it looked like the team race was over. It didn't seem like anyone was making a run at us.
At that stage, it was about protecting where we were at and not doing any more than we had to."
Rounding out the top five behind Wisconsin was BYU in second with 120 points, Stanford third with 125, Princeton fourth with 227 and Indiana fifth with 271. With 21 of the top 30 teams in the most recent coaches' poll competing in the race, Byrne expected plenty of eyes to be on the Invitational.
"You come into a big meet like this and there's a lot of eyes in the nation on Madison, Wisconsin," Byrne said. "This was one of the best fields assembled in a long, long time. The competition was incredible."
Not only was the competition great, so too was Wisconsin's Thomas Zimmer Championship Course. For many of the visiting runners, it was their first time competing on the world-class facility. Based on the comments from visitors, impressions were made.
"I think they're in awe," Collins said. "There are really no other facilities in that nation that can rival this. It's every cross country runner's dream, and we're very lucky to have it."
Knowing that the toughest of the training is behind them, Byrne is excited to see what his group is capable of as it continues to tune up and prepare for Big Ten and NCAA competition.
"As we go forward into preparations for Nov. 21, a lot of the longer, heavier stuff is done and we just get faster," Byrne said. "It's very exciting to see where this particular group is at right now."
Though encouraged by what he saw in his group, Byrne stressed the event was still a race in October, and the real goals are the ones that lay ahead.
"Hey, it's Oct. 14, don't lose sight of what the big objective is," Byrne told his athletes. "We turn back to our saying, `It's Big Ten competition and beyond.'"