Hoping to defend its 2011 title at the Adidas Invitational, the top-ranked UW men’s cross country team is preparing for the match both mentally and physically.

The Badgers will host the invitational at the Zimmerman Championship Course near the University Ridge Golf Course with the men’s 8k race starting at 12:45 p.m on Friday. The race will include 46 teams from around the country and five other top 10 teams.

Head coach Mick Byrne said the team is going to have its hands full with No. 4 Oklahoma in addition to several other highly-regarded teams. This meet aims to kick things up a notch for the Badgers.

Thus far, the team has had three meets in September, placing first in all three. Although the Badgers won a national championship last year and are off to an impressive start this year, they aren’t letting their success supersede them. Now that September is over, the season is completely different as the team moves to a national stage and the championship chase begins.

“We are very excited about the fact that September is now past,” Byrne said. “The meets gave us an opportunity to evaluate some of our younger athletes.”

One of the runners he will be evaluating is junior Alex Brill, who won the Badger Open in early September and earned a spot in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd.” Byrne is looking for Brill to step up Friday and said the Badgers are going to need him this year if they want to get back on the podium at the national championships.

Brill can do what many other experienced, prominent athletes do and lead the younger runners by showing them how to prepare mentally for meets. Preparing mentally is not something the coaches discuss daily, so it’s something the younger runners must learn from more experienced teammates.

Entering the meet Friday, Byrne said mental preparation is what the Badgers are keying in on if they want to pull the same results as they have been so far this season.

“In terms of what we’re looking to do for the rest of the season, it’s just the meet on Oct. 12,” Byrne said. “Monday morning we’re going to wake up and still continue with our training plan and the same path as we have for the last couple of years, [regardless] of what happens on Friday.”

So far this season, seniors Mohammed Ahmed, Reed Connor and Maverick Darling have yet to race. According to Byrne, Ahmed is training every day and now that the team has stepped up the intensity of workouts, the deciding factor in if he races or not is how he recovers from the tougher workouts. Byrne explained how Ahmed made it through September healthy and once he is ready to go physically and mentally, he will race. At the Adidas Invitational, however, he will not be running.

While there is no certainty about when Ahmed will start racing, Byrne mentioned his star runner has made notable progress.

“What happens over the next couple of weeks depends on how Mohammed responds to workouts,” Byrne said. “At this stage, he looks really good. He got a good workout at Zimmer last week.”

As of now, Darling is scheduled to race, but the Badgers haven’t decided if Connor will be running yet. Both athletes want to race, but the coaching staff hasn’t determined the roster yet.

Featuring 19 of the 30 teams ranked in the most recent coaches’ poll, the adidas Invitational is one of the biggest collegiate races of the season because of the noteworthy competition and the quality of athletes attending the meet. There is representation from across the country, so Byrne stressed that this meet will be worth attending.

“We will see a lot of great teams this weekend and we will know about what is going on around the country,” Byrne said. “There are three or four teams not coming to the meet, and they’re going down to Louisville to the pre-national meet. I think after this weekend we will have a clear picture of what’s going on around the country, the whole national scene.”