This past weekend saw sterling performances from members of Wisconsin’s track and field squad at the 2017 NCAA Championship West Region Preliminary Round, with eight Badgers qualifying for the National Championship held June 7-10 in Eugene, Oregon. The Badgers’ strong results from the prelims are encouraging, especially considering the sweltering heat the meet was held in.
Wisconsin’s dominance in the distance events showed, with junior Joe Hardy in the 5,000m and senior Malachy Schrobilgen in the 10,000m qualifying for the men, as well as redshirt junior Sarah Disanza advancing for the women. Hardy led his heat of the 5,000m going into the last lap before getting kicked down with 250 meters to go, but hung on just enough to reach Eugene with a time of 14:36.16. While his time was the slowest of the qualifiers, Hardy’s fearless racing tactics could serve him well in what will likely be a tactical race. Schrobilgen endured a slow beginning pace to qualify for Eugene in a time of 29:58.31, nearly 30 seconds slower than his previous personal best. Entering with the 15th-best seed time, Schrobilgen has an outside shot at an All-American spot. Disanza earned her first Outdoor Nationals berth with a time of 16:35.33, which puts her as the 17th seed going into the National Championship. Put in a heat with the biggest stars of women’s collegiate distance running in Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer and Boise State’s Allie Ostrander, Disanza’s race should prepare her for what to expect in Eugene.
The only non-distance qualifier for the Badgers on the track was senior Brenna Detra, whose performance in the 400m hurdles was enough to punch her ticket to Eugene. In the third heat of her event, Detra got off to a fast start before fading slightly on the back turn. However, she had a strong final straightaway to finish 3rd in the heat. Her time of 58.43 resulted in the 22nd overall seed in the National Championship, making All-American honors doubtful.
The Badgers’ field athletes turned in huge performances over the weekend as well, with four athletes advancing to Eugene. The throwing duo of juniors Riley Budde and Josh McDonald continued their run of dominance at the prelims, with both qualifying in the shot put and Budde reaching the National Championship in the hammer throw as well. However, neither has a strong shot of reaching the podium, as Budde is ranked 23rd in both events and McDonald is 24th in the shot put. Freshman pole vaulter Rashid Coulibaly had a career day, substantially improving on his seasonal best to make his first trip to the national meet. Entering the prelims as the 37th seed with a previous best vault of 5.14m, Coulibaly cleared 5.35m in Austin, making him the 2nd overall seed at the National Championship. Sophomore Emma Haugen will be representing the female Badgers in the field events, as her high jump mark of 1.79m earned her a spot in the big time. Haugen will be the 20th overall seed in Eugene, but if she can rise to the occasion the sky’s the limit for the young Badger.
Once again, Wisconsin’s Director of Cross Country and Track and Field Mick Byrne has worked his magic. The Badgers had athletes in a variety of events qualify for the sport’s biggest stage, and it will be interesting to see how they perform under the bright lights.