Starting tomorrow, the top men and women of the Wisconsin Badgers’ track team will be competing in the NCAA West Preliminary Round in hopes of qualifying for the National Championship held June 7-10. In order to qualify for rounds in track-crazy Eugene, Oregon, an athlete will have to have finish in the top 12 of their Preliminary Round event. The West region, which Wisconsin will be participating in, will be held in Austin, Texas, with its brutal heat, which will wreak havoc, especially in the distance races.
Senior sprint star Lorenzo Larry was able to qualify for the prelims in both the 100m and 200m with marks of 10.34 and 20.91 seconds, though his chances of qualifying in either is slim as he is ranked 35th in the 100m and 37th in the 200m.
In the 800m, sophomore Eric Brown has the potential to be a dark horse candidate for advancing to the national competition. Currently seeded 18th with a time of 1:48.72, Brown’s seasonal best is less than a second behind the 12th-seeded runner. The fast heat of the 800m, which Brown will not be in, could be tactical and thus slow, which can open the door for runners in the slower heats to advance if they perform well.
The Badger men start flexing their distance strength with the 1500m, where junior Carl Hirsch, freshman Oliver Hoare and senior Joe Hardy are all ranked in the top 35. Hirsch leads the Badgers with a time of 3:43.26 with Hoare just behind in 3:43.48, and Hardy following them with 3:45.26. With 90+ degrees as the projected temperature, lesser-prepared athletes could crack, especially if they don’t have the benefit the Badgers do of having teammates in the field.
Even though senior Malachy Schrobilgen scratched in the 5000m, the Badgers still have senior Russell Sandvold, Hardy and freshmen Olin Hacker and Zack Snider entered in the event. All four Badgers enter with seed times between 13:57 and 14:01, though the fastest (Sandvold’s 13:57.81) is more than 10 seconds outside of the top 12. Junior superstar Morgan McDonald’s absence is notable, as the Big Ten cross-country champion was unable to compete due to injury.
Schrobilgen’s decision to skip the 5000m (with his seasonal best of 13:49.68 and the 17th seed) for the 10000m (where he currently ranks 32nd with a 29:27.48), was curious. The 2017 Big Ten 10000m champion’s personal best of 29:17.07 stacks up well against the rest of the field, but Schrobilgen faces an uphill battle to reach Eugene even if he is the Badgers’ best hope on the track.
Moving over to the field, Badgers junior Tim Guthrie and freshman Rashid Coulibaly are ranked 36th and 37th in the pole vault with both clearing 5.14m. The junior duo of Riley Budde and Josh McDonald are competing in the shot put, and Budde represents one of the Badgers’ best hopes for qualifying to the National Championship as his 19.42m toss puts him eighth in the region. Both Budde and McDonald will partake in the discus as well, though McDonald is superior in that event as his 57.89m throw was good for the 11th overall seed while Budde ranks 30th. Budde is in primary position to reach Eugene in the hammer throw as well, as he enters the prelims ranked ninth in the event after throwing 66.79m.
On the women’s side, rising star sophomore Ebony McClendon sits 40th in the 100m with a time of 11.52. To qualify, she’ll likely have to shed a full 0.2 seconds off of her seasonal best.
While there were less women to qualify on the track for the Badgers, the 5000m could see as many as three Wisconsin women advance to Eugene. Senior Sarah Disanza, who placed third at Indoor Nationals this past winter in the 5000m, is 11th with a seasonal best of 15:55.57, and her personal best of 15:20.57 makes her one of the top contenders in the field. Sophomore Amy Davis and freshman Alicia Monson rank 20th and 21st with times of 16:03.02 and 16:04.09, respectively. Having three women that will be in the fast heat gives them an opportunity to work together, a significant advantage at a meet of this importance. Expect Disanza to close out her stellar yet injury-riddled career as a Badger by advancing to Outdoor Nationals for the first time.
The distance women squad continues in the 10000m, as senior Michelle Lee and sophomore Shaelyn Sorensen put together fast enough times to compete in the prelims. Lee is seeded 32nd and Sorensen is 40th, making a berth to nationals unlikely, but both will be fresh for the longest distance race on the track.
Senior hurdler Brenna Detra is in great position to advance to nationals, as her seasonal best of 57.64 ranks seventh in the region. Her stellar time will likely put her in the fast heat and allow her to be dragged to a qualifying time.
In the field events, sophomore jumper Emma Haugen’s high jump mark of 1.83m is the seventh best in the region, though the glut of competitors with similar performances could complicate her road to Eugene. As long as Haugen performs up to her ability, she should reach the National Championship.
The Badgers have two competitors in the pole vault in junior Taylor Amann and freshman Chinne Okoronkwo, who are seeded 22nd and 47th, respectively. Both are long shots for qualifying, and would need big personal bests if they are to make it to Eugene. Okoronkwo has a better chance in the triple jump, where her leap of 12.97m was good for the 20th best in the region.
The Badgers have a pair of sophomores in the women’s shot put with 23rd-ranked Kennedy Blahnik and 24th-ranked Banke Oginni, who have thrown 15.57m and 15.50m, respectively, this season. Both would have to throw more than a meter farther than those marks in order to best the competitors currently in qualifying position. Blahnik will also participate in the discus throw, but since she sits in 25th, will need a significant improvement to advance. The Badgers’ top hope from the women’s field events is freshman Emma Fitzgerald, who set the school record in the javelin this past season and is ranked 11th in the region. Her throw of 51.98m puts her in prime position to continue her season in Oregon in June.
While the Badgers’ have suffered their share of injury setbacks, don’t be surprised if there are a number of white-and-red jerseys at nationals, especially in the distance and throwing events.