Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Must-win situation for Bairu, Badgers

Dan Marino, Ted Williams, Karl Malone, Mark Martin … Simon Bairu and the seniors of the UW men's cross country team? Hopefully not.

Most sports fans should understand that list, but in case you woke up from a 20-year long nap, I'll fill you in.

Marino has the most pass completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns in NFL history, but no Super Bowl Ring.


Ted Williams, five-time Major League Baseball Player of the Year, two-time AL MVP and winner of the 1942 Triple Crown, finished without a World Series championship.

Karl Malone was a 13-time All-Star and two-time MVP in the NBA. He finished with an average of 25 points and 10 rebounds per game, but in 19 seasons — all but one with the Utah Jazz — never won an NBA title.

Mark Martin has 35 wins and has made more than $50 million making a career out of left turns, but is set to retire at the end of this season without a Winston Cup, Nextel Cup or any other form of NASCAR season championship.

Wisconsin senior Simon Bairu won the NCAA individual title last year and his list of honors alone reads like the honors of some entire cross country teams.

He is a two-time All-American in cross country and a three-time All-American in track. He has won the Big Ten individual title twice, resulting in two Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Year awards. The list goes on and on, but there is one major thing that he is missing: an NCAA team championship.

Despite participating in 34 consecutive NCAA meets, the national title has eluded the team in both Bairu's and men's cross country head coach Jerry Schumacher's tenures at Wisconsin.

The Badgers have never finished worse than sixth in Schumacher's eight years as head of the program, and have taken second place in each of the three meets that Bairu has participated in.

It's hard to get much closer than UW did last year. As the probable favorite heading into the meet, the Badgers finished as the runner-up to Colorado by just four points.

This year, I'm going to jump on the bandwagon that UW women's cross country coach Jim Stintzi started up at Monday's press conference.

"Not to put too much pressure on Jerry, but really, you don't ever want to say they're a lock, but I can say it. I'm not coaching the team," Stinzi said, following up with what was some sort of quasi-joke. "He's not in the room yet, is he? Yeah. Jerry says they're a guarantee to win. You can quote me on that."

Stintzi, a former UW runner himself, obviously had his red-tinted glasses on when he basically guaranteed a win for Schumacher's team. But at the same time, anything short of a victory at the NCAA meet — Bairu and his fellow seniors' last chance — would be a major disappointment.

I won't lie, I'm not a cross country connoisseur, but Stintzi knows what he is talking about — in another, much less one-sided comment, he gave this year's men's team a huge compliment.

"I obviously watched the [Big Ten] race and … watched with some people who knew cross country, and we pretty much agreed that it was the best team that we'd seen," Stintzi said. "It was quite a few people with lots of years of experience … obviously their record says it's the best team ever in the Big Ten, but it is the best team ever that I've seen in the Big Ten."

The Badgers dominated the Big Ten meet, with individuals taking the top four spots and eight of the top nine overall.

But that was nothing new — winning the NCAA team title would be. It won't be their first ever, but it would be a refreshing change from the past few years.

As you could expect, when it came time for Shumacher to take the podium, he was a little more humble in his outlook.

"Jim was obviously being an alumni of the program and has a lot of pride in the University of Wisconsin, and I think he'd love to see us win as much as anybody else," Schumacher said. "We put ourselves in the best position we can heading into the meet. And a lot of things can happen that day, and we're just going to go in there, do [our] best, you know, hopefully we're on top."

For one, I hope that Schumacher was just putting that show on for the camera.

Obviously it's important not to be overconfident heading into the big meet, and it would be inappropriate for a coach to come out and say flat-out that his or her team is going to win.

But at the same time, it would be pretty sad to have to add Bairu — who has done so much during his time here — and his classmates to the list of great athletes who failed to win the big one.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *