The University of Wisconsin men’s and women’s track teams may be young and going through some growing pains, but there are two members in the track program who are emerging as a national stars.
Gwen Jorgensen, a senior from Waukesha, was named to the all-Big Ten first team and recently had a dominating performance in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter events. Jorgensen won both races at the 2009 Big Ten indoor championships to win both individual conference titles.
Head coach Jim Stintzi has watched his senior runner progress throughout her time in the program and came away very impressed with her recent performance.
“That 5,000 was probably as good a 5,000 ever in conference competition,” Stintzi said. “To take the lead early, put the hammer down and still have a kick in the end tells me she has gone from a really good collegiate runner to something special.”
Although Jorgensen has become a special runner at UW, this success on the track would have been hard to predict when Jorgensen first stepped on campus. Jorgensen started her UW athletic career on the swimming team, and is in just her second season on the indoor track team. Stintzi heard of Jorgensen’s ability from her high school coach and had some interest in seeing what she could do.
“She did a little bit of running on the track and she was a good looking runner,” Stintzi said. “It’s a pretty amazing story to go from just giving it a shot to second in the 5,000 in the entire country.”
Stintzi saw the potential in the gifted athlete, and while coaching her for the past couple years has been able to watch her blossom into a national caliber athlete.
“The first couple years we battled a lot because she was so new to the sport,” Stintzi said. “I kept trying to teach her the tactics that are involved in running.”
One of the major turns in Jorgensen’s career, according to Stintzi, was her ability to learn how to win races. Although she was described as a selfless, modest, team-oriented person, Jorgensen has developed a killer instinct to help her finish off races.
“She has been learning how to win, and she is learning that it is OK to beat other people,” Stintzi said.
After not winning a race throughout her entire high school track career, Jorgensen has garnered the attention of many in the world of track and field. Her growth as a distance runner while at UW has given her the option to possibly continue running once her college career comes to an end. “She was just contacted by the United States triathlon development committee because of her swimming and running background,” Stintzi said.
Whether Jorgensen pursues track after her days at UW remains to be seen, but she still has plenty left to accomplish at the college ranks. Jorgensen will be one to of two female athletes to represent UW at the National Indoor Track Championships this weekend.
They say records are meant to be broken, and on the men’s track team, junior Craig Miller has done just that. Miller, a runner from Arden Hills, Minn., broke the UW mile record and the four-minute mark with a time of 3:59.09 this season. Miller became the third Badger to ever eclipse four minutes in the mile run.
“Breaking the four minute barrier is pretty magical,” men’s head coach Ed Nuttycombe said. “There are still only a few hundred in the country who have done it.”
With the record-breaking time, Miller automatically qualified for nationals this weekend, which was his major concern. Instead of focusing on the significance of the record, Miller is putting all his focus to the national championships this weekend.
“I had never really thought about it. I actually didn’t even know what the record was,” Miller said. “I’m happy about the record, and it qualified me for nationals.”
Miller will take his record time with him to College Station, Texas for the meet this weekend, but said he is not going to focus on improving on his new mark.
“I’m not too worried about the exact time,” Miller said. “I’m just going to run my race and try to place high.”