Set to host one of the nation’s premier regular-season meets before heading into the latter stages of their season, Saturday’s Adidas Invitational will serve as a benchmark to where the Wisconsin men’s cross country team stands on the national level.
Held at Thomas Zimmer Cross Country course in Verona, the meet will feature stiff competition for the 20th-ranked Badgers that are fighting to remain a national cross-country powerhouse. Of the 30 ranked teams in the nation, 19 will be in Saturday’s competition, including top-10 opponents Northern Arizona, Brigham Young, Arkansas, Portlan and Columbia.
For the Badgers, it will be a time to prove that despite losing five All-Americans from last season’s national runner-up squad, the team has enough depth to continue their streak of 11 straight Great Lakes NCAA Regional titles, 14 straight Big Ten titles and an NCAA record of 41 consecutive national championship appearances. A legacy so steeped in tradition won’t fade away just so easily, according to head coach Mick Byrne.
“Yes, if you were to believe what social media pundits are saying about the University of Wisconsin, we’re down and we’re out. But I certainly don’t come to work every day believing that,” Byrne said at a press conference Monday.
Byrne is very enthusiastic about the young core of Badger runners, highlighting freshmen Carl Hirsch and Ryan Kromer along with redshirt freshman Malachy Schrobilgen. The trio of first-year runners believe they are prepared to compete at the national level.
“Right now we have a lot of guys around the same fitness and ability level. Guys finishing all the workouts together. It’s hard to figure out who’s going to be the number one, number two, number three,” Schrobilgen said. “This race will help us find out who’s doing the right things, making sure they’ve been taking care of themselves.”
The meet will undoubtedly serve as a true gauge for where the Badgers stand on a national level, but the team does not see Saturday’s race as the end-all, say-all in terms of the remainder of the season.
“I think this meet is a turning point in our season. We’re gunning to keep those streaks alive,” Schrobilgen said. “We want to gain some confidence out of this race and parlay that into the next couple races. But anything we do in this race won’t directly affect the results of those races.”
Though many of the faces are different for the Badgers this year, running on their home turf is an opportunity they have to show they are still in the position to be one of the elite teams in the country.
“They know it’s Adidas Week,” Byrne said. “It just means a different atmosphere around the locker room, out on the practice field, and the kids are very excited about it.”
Saturday afternoon the fifth annual Adidas Invitational is an eight-kilometer race starting at 11 a.m. The women’s cross-country team will also be in competition, with their six-kilometer race beginning at 12 p.m.