September 16, 2020
The upcoming Big Ten Championship will give the men’s and women’s cross-country teams a chance to build on their success from last week’s Wisconsin adidas Invitational.At the Wisconsin adidas Invitational Oct. 17, the men’s and women’s teams both placed in the top five. The men finished third and the women finished fourth in a meet that brought some of the fiercest competition from around the nation.“We’re excited about where we are going into this weekend’s Big Ten Championships,” cross-country director Mick Byrne said at Monday’s news conference. “It was a great performance from both teams.”Looking ahead to the Big Ten Championship slated for this coming Saturday, the Badgers’ lineup for both teams will look pretty much the same as it did at the Invitational. The only exception is on the men’s side with the return of Alex Hatz, who was hurt earlier in the season, but will be ready to go for the race.The field will have nearly 150 athletes fewer than what it was at the adidas Invite race a couple weeks ago, which should result in a more personal and competitive meet for the Badgers.Byrne also offered his predictions Monday for the upcoming conference championships.On the women’s side, Byrne envisions a top-three finish at the event. Even though Michigan State is considered the favorite for the upcoming race, he said that this type of race could play out in favor of the Wisconsin women.A great deal of Byrne’s confidence in the women’s program comes from the way in which they handled the large field of competitors at the adidas meet.“They did a great job,” Byrne said. “Their composure was incredible. They’re going to need that down the road.”The Badger women’s recent success has implications beyond the Big Ten. Byrne believes that these strong performances will serve as a leaping point for success over the next few meets and even at the National Championships later this season.The women’s program is built around star runners Emma-Lisa Murphy, Sarah Disanza and Gabi Anzalone. For Byrne, ensuring future success is all about recruiting and developing the younger girls for support.Meanwhile on the men’s side, after winning this meet for 14 years prior to last years’ defeat, the Badgers are keen on returning the Big Ten trophy to its rightful home.“For better for worse we lost it last year and now it’s, ‘Let’s go back and win it back,’” Byrne said.The Wisconsin men look to be the favorites for the Big Ten meet based on the results from the adidas Invitational. No other Big Ten team finished in the top five at that event, but Byrne said he is watching out for Michigan and Indiana.Byrne would rather claim the Big Ten trophy than the national title, given that the men’s program is relatively young. He sees the age of the program as an advantage to building an even better team in the future.Certainly, the Big Ten Championship on Sunday will play a huge role in defining the strength of the men’s and women’s teams, both in the conference and looking forward to the rest of the season.