With the Big Ten outdoor meet just three weeks away, the University of Wisconsin men's and women's track and field teams are stepping up their preparations. This weekend, the women's team will compete in the Iowa Twilight. On the men's side, one group will travel with the women to Iowa, while another will head west to compete in the Oregon Invite. "It's coming up real soon," said UW women's track and field head coach Jim Stintzi. "Right now we're focusing on just improving every time we step out there on the track. You need to go out there and compete at a high level each and every time." The Iowa Twilight features eight teams from throughout the Midwest, including Big Ten contenders Iowa and Minnesota. Also at the meet will be mid-majors Drake, Northern Iowa and Western Illinois. "This is a good mix of majors and mid-majors," Stintzi said. "It should be a real good meet. Going up against some other Big Ten teams will be good for the team as they start thinking about the Big Tens." And Stintzi continues to see improvement on the women's side of the team. Sophomore Amanda Hoeppner threw personal bests of 46-10.5 in the shot put and 177-6 in the hammer throw at the UW-Platteville Invite last weekend. Freshman Samantha Dehn, coming off an injury last year, threw a personal best of 144-10 to win the discuss event at the same invite. Another athlete who continues to impress is Big Ten Co-Athlete of the Week Melissa Talbot. Talbot won the heptathlon at the rain-shortened Sea Ray Relays in Knoxville, Tenn., last week with a score of 5,570. Her score was good enough to give her an automatic bid for the NCAA outdoor championships meet next month. Also, Talbot's score currently ranks her second in the conference and seventh nationally. "Melissa has been having a great year for us," Stintzi said. "She's a great overall athlete, and she loves the outdoor season. She's starting to peak at the right time and hopefully she keeps bettering herself for the Big Ten and NCAAs." Both teams are using the meets this weekend to see where they stand against competition they could potentially face at the NCAA championships. With seven other teams at Iowa and 25-plus teams at Oregon, now is the time for the Badgers to start kicking it into high gear by working on the little things. "Right now, I'm just looking at the little things," Stintzi said. "If we can nit-pick the little things now, then all the athletes will be able to work on those little things in practice and hopefully fix them at the next meet. "We've got about three or four more of those 'next meets' before it's 'go' time at the Big Tens," Stintzi continued. "Right now, it's a good time of year and we hope to keep building to reach our goals."
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