After a successful indoor track and field season where four team members qualified for the NCAA championship, the Badgers have just under a month until the postseason starts for outdoor track.
Thus far, the Badgers have sent athletes to warmer parts of the nation, attending the Aztec Invitational, the UC Riverside Classic, and the Stanford Invitational in California, as well as University of Arizona’s Jim Click Invitational. With a break until the weekend of April 21st, the Badgers will round out their invitational season by sending top athletes to the Triton Invitational in California, the Jim McDonnell Invitational in Arkansas, the Drake Relays and Stanford’s legendary Payton Jordan Invitational. Locally, some Badgers will be competing at the UW Whitewater Alternate Meet and at the Wisconsin Invitational held in Madison.
The season began with senior sprint star Lorenzo Larry winning both the 100m and 200m races at the Aztec Invitational, and repeating the double at the UC Riverside Classic the next day. The Badger women flexed their long distance strength at the Aztec Invitational by placing five women in the top 12 of the 1500m, while the men performed similarly in the 5000m, with junior Carl Hirsch leading the Badgers, seizing of the 4th through 10th spots in the event. On the throwing side, freshman Travis Toliver won the javelin with a toss of 201’6”, good for 6th best in school history, while freshman Emma Fitzgerald broke the school record by throwing 170’6”.
The Badgers’ distance studs were then sent to the Stanford Invitational with the goal of hitting NCAA Regional qualifying times, and the group came through with stellar performances across the board. In the 5000m, senior Malachy Schrobilgen’s 4th place finish and 13:54.6 mark led a squad that saw personal bests from junior Joe Hardy (13:59.0), redshirt freshman Olin Hacker (13:59.7), redshirt freshman Zack Snider (14:00.7) and senior Russ Sandvold (14:03.9). The women’s 5000m saw the return of two-time All-American senior Sarah Disanza, whose 15:55.6 mark was one of the best in school history despite losing her shoe mid-race, as well as top 10 times in program history from sophomore Amy Davis (16:03.0) and freshman Alicia Monson (16:04.0).
At the Jim Click Invitational in Arizona that concluded April 8, the men’s team finished third with 103 points while the women’s team won the meet with 129 points. The women’s victory was due in large part to junior sprinter Ebony McClendon, who tied the school record in the 100m with a blistering time of 11.55 seconds, jumpers sophomore Emma Haugen and freshman Chinne Okoronkwo, and steeplechasers sophomore Erin Wagner and junior Lianna Mack. For the men, Larry continued his streak of dominance by winning the 100m in 10.34 seconds, the 7th-fastest time in school history, and finishing 4th in the 200m. The throwing duo of redshirt juniors Josh McDonald and Riley Budde, both of whom have an NCAA championship appearance under their belt, performed admirably, with McDonald finishing 3rd in the discus and 6th in the shotput and Budde racking up points by finishing 2nd in the hammer throw, 4th in the shotput and 5th in the discus.
Looking ahead, the Drake Relays and the Payton Jordan Invitational are the biggest events prior to postseason competition. With a number of professional athletes competing, especially on the distance side, look for the Badgers to get dragged along to fast times. On the national scale, there are a number of Wisconsin athletes in position for qualifying for the national championship. Larry is currently sitting in a tie for 29th in the nation in the 100m, despite racing with less wind assistance than a number of his competitors, and ranks 38th in the 200m. The 5000m is Wisconsin’s bread and butter at the moment, with Schrobilgen (7th), Hardy (15th), Hacker (16th), Snider (18th) and Sandvold (27th) all ranking in the top 30 nationally. McDonald and Budde are both in contention for qualifying for the national championship in the throws, with McDonald 13th in the nation in the discus and Budde 25th in the hammer throw. Absent for the total of this outdoor season has been distance stud junior Morgan McDonald, the school record holder in the mile and the Big Ten champion in cross country, who has suffered from a nagging injury. It is unknown whether the Australian will compete at all this season, but is one of the top runners in the NCAA when healthy.
The women’s has less track athletes in consideration for the national meet at this point in the season, though McClendon is just outside of contention in both the 100m and the 200m. The 5000m is the strength of the Badger women as well, as Disanza (13th), Davis (24th) and Monson (25th) are among the best in the country at the premier distance event. In the field, Haugen currently ranks 15th in the nation in the high jump and Okoronkwo checks in at 36th in the triple jump. Fitzgerald cemented herself as a serious contender in the javelin after her toss at the UC Riverside meet, and is tied for 11th in the nation. Yet to compete is multi-time All-American heptathlete junior Georgia Ellenwood, who placed 10th in the 2017 World Indoor Championships in the pentathlon. She struggled through injuries for the first time in her career towards the end of winter, likely the reason she hasn’t competed thus far, but can’t be ruled out for a late-season comeback.
Stats, rankings and results courtesy of uwbadgers.com and directathletics.com