EAST LANSING, Mich. – Maverick Darling had a runner-up finish as he led Wisconsin to its14th consecutive conference title at the 2012 Big Ten championship. The win marks the Badger’s 46th title.
“It was kind of a community effort,” Darling said. “I had a lot of people tell me I put a small town on the map, and to have them there is pretty unique and very special. I wanted to win it for them and I came up a little short, but they were still pretty proud of me.”
There was plenty to be proud of for the Badgers. Behind Darling’s second-place effort, fellow seniors Mohammed Ahmed (third place) and Reed Connor (sixth) helped UW claim the team championship with a score of 33 points.
Wisconsin’s run of 14 consecutive crowns is the longest in conference history, extending a streak that began in 1999.
“He wanted to win. He wanted to win close to home,” UW coach Mick Byrne said of Darling. “All these busloads of people came to see him run. At the end of the day, he knows we got a team title, and how many guys can walk away and say they’re four-time Big Ten champions?”
UW’s 14 titles in the last 14 seasons are more than every other Big Ten team has won all-time, with the exception of Michigan State, which has taken home a total 14 crowns in the 96-year history of the Big Ten meet.
“My freshman year, when I redshirted, the seniors that were on their way out said that no one wants to be on the team that loses the Big Ten streak,” Darling said. “We understand what that means. It’s just phenomenal to know you’re part of such a strong program.
“Winning 14 [consecutive] championships — in any collegiate sport – is pretty impressive. To be a part of that is fantastic and something I don’t take lightly.”
Darling finished the 8-kilometer course in a time of 23:35. Ahmed crossed the line right behind him in 23:36 and Connor finished sixth in 23:47.
Fellow senior Rob Finnerty stepped up with an impressive seventh-place finish in 24:02. Junior Alex Brill rounded out the top five for UW, finishing 15th in 24:13.
“Finnerty was incredible,” Byrne said. “He did an amazing job. He looked like a different person out there. He was confident, he was in control, he was leading the second group and, a couple of times, I had to shout at him to keep something in the tank.”
Sophomores Alex Hatz and Michael Van Voorhis finished 23rd and 36th, respectively, in times of 24:27 and 24:39.
Ahmed, Darling, Connor and Finnerty each earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Ahmed and Darling are the seventh and eighth runners in Big Ten history to earn first-team All-Big Ten accolades in four consecutive seasons. The pair join Jason Casiano (1991-94) and Chris Solinsky (2003-06) as the only Badgers to accomplish the rare feat.
Connor claimed his second-consecutive first-team All-Big Ten honor, while Finnerty notched his first.
Rounding out the race for the team title was No. 11 Michigan in second with 65 points, No. 24 Indiana third with 79, Illinois fourth (86) and Minnesota fifth (141)
Indiana senior Zachary Mayhew won the individual title in 23:29.