With the Big Ten Outdoor Championships looming on the not-so-distant horizon, the Wisconsin men’s track team now briefly turns its attention to the Wisconsin Twilight Meet. The Twilight Meet, which takes place Saturday, will feature state and regional teams. Due to the proximity to conference championships, the Badgers are not sure just who to expect.
“We know of a bunch of teams that have spoken to us,” head coach Ed Nuttycombe said, “Iowa State, Marquette, a bunch of bits and pieces of a lot of teams. For most teams, as it is for ourselves, it is the week before their respective conference meets, so we get a lot of bits and pieces of teams.”
Nuttycombe is also expecting a strong contingent from the Wisconsin schools. For some of the smaller, in-state schools, the Twilight provides a chance to test their abilities against their larger Division I neighbors.
“I think it is nice to have the Division III’s and some of the smaller schools of the state; they all have some pretty good athletes and when you put them all together it makes for a pretty good meet,” Nuttycombe said. “I think for them it’s kind of a big deal to come to a Big Ten or a bigger school. I think it adds a little bit of credibility and they usually send their better athletes. It definitely makes for a better meet.”
Last year, Beloit, Carroll, Lawrence, St. Norbert, Ripon, UW-Parkside and UW-Milwaukee all sent representatives to the one-day event.
For the Badgers however, the Twilight is a low-key event in comparison to the Big Ten Championships that take place May 16-18.
“The intensity will be there, just because we always bring it to every meet,” senior Steve Jones said. “But I guess we don’t take it as seriously with some of the smaller schools there, because it’s not like we are going head to head with Minnesota like we will be the following weekend at the Big Tens. But it still will be intense, because we do not like to lose and we want to win.”
Wisconsin will take advantage of the Twilight to ready its team for what lies ahead next weekend in Minneapolis.
“This meet in general for us is more so preparation for the Big Ten meet,” senior Ryan Ridge said. “We just want to get out of the meet uninjured and healthy and just feel like we’re at our prime for the Big Tens.”
The low-pressure environment will allow UW to do some fine-tuning that they would not be able to do in a larger profile meet.
“The goal is to put a finishing touch — to make sure the athletes are prepared as they can be for the following weekend,” Nuttycombe said. “For some that means perhaps taking another shot at their primary race. For others it may be to run a different race, a shorter race. For others it may be to not run at all.”
“It allows people to work on starts or other races that they don’t normally get to,” added Ridge.
For Jones, one of the team’s three captains, the Wisconsin Twilight has a special significance. The fifth-year senior has been hampered by ankle injuries of late and is hoping for one more chance to perform in front of the hometown fans in Wisconsin’s lone home meet of the outdoor season.
“It’s a great atmosphere because it’s our only outdoor home meet this season,” he said.
A Madison native, Jones starred at West High School before beginning his UW career.
“As long as I’m healthy, I’m going to try to put on the best show possible,” he added. “I’ve been waiting for this, and I’m so ready — I’ve got lots of family and friends coming from high school. I’m really looking forward to this meet.”