Coming off its 10th straight Big Ten Championship and seventh straight Great Lakes Regional Championship Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind., the Wisconsin men’s cross country team now sets its sights on the NCAA Championships. Monday, head coach Mick Byrne spoke about the team’s regional win.
“It was an exciting win for us,” Byrne said. “Obviously the objective going into Saturday’s meet was to win it, and not come out of there banged up. We accomplished both of those goals.”
Looking forward to the National Championship meet, to be held in Terre Haute, Ind., next Monday, Byrne noted teams like Oregon, Oklahoma State, Portland and perennial powerhouse Stanford, along with the Badgers, as likely contenders for the title. A win will give Wisconsin its second National Championship in four years, but Byrne’s first in his rookie campaign.
“The goal has always been, throughout the season, to get back on the podium,” Byrne said. “We’re in there with a shot.”
The Badgers will look toward their seniors to lead the way. For Matt Withrow, Stuart Eagan and Christian Wagner, this will be their fourth National Championship meet. Three-time All-Americans Withrow and Eagan have battled injuries this season, but their coach is confident they’ll bring their “A” games for their final collegiate competition.
“With those two in much better shape than they were two or three weeks ago, it’s certainly going to help us next week,” Byrne said.
Until recently, Withrow’s status for Monday’s meet was unclear.
“We knew we were going to come down to the wire in terms of time,” Byrne said of Withrow. “Yet we know he’s a good athlete. We know when he’s fit, he’s going to produce for you.
“I knew a week ago that he was going to be much better this past Saturday, and he’s certainly going to be much better on Monday. Matt’s the type of kid that every week he’s just going to get better and better.”
Byrne also alluded to weather possibly playing a factor in next week’s meet. “We’re hoping for some colder weather next week,” he said. “Anything in the 30s we’d be excited about. It might slow down some guys in the race, and all our guys are tough Midwesterners and they want it to snow, they want colder weather.”