‘Future bodes very well’ for track and field, head coach says
The track and field season finished at the end of June, and even though neither the Wisconsin men’s nor the women’s track and field teams captured a Big Ten title in the indoor or outdoor championships, the squads still formed a foundation for better years to come.Outdoor track and field freshman of the year honors were bestowed on Badgers for both the men and women. Reed Connor became the first Badger to capture the award, winning the Big Ten title in the 5,000-meter run for the men. He finished in 16th place in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Championships, with a time of 14:00.49.Emily Sisson earned the award for the women’s side with her 3rd place finishes in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter runs at the Big Ten Championships and became the third Badger to win the award. Sisson also stood out in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Championships, finishing in 10th place with a time of 15:53.90.On top of strong freshman performances from Connor, Sisson and others, both programs are looking forward to being even more competitive next year.“We are very young and have a lot of good young talent, and I think the future bodes very well for the team,” men’s head coach Ed Nuttycombe said.The women’s team only loses one outdoor conference scoring athlete to graduation, Egle Staisiunaite, the new Wisconsin school record holder in the 100-meter hurdles, with a time of 13.45. Jim Stintzi, head coach of the women’s team, hopes the Badgers can move up in the standings because of their youth and the graduation of key players elsewhere in the Big Ten.Other young standouts included freshmen Jay Cato and Dan Block, sophomores Maverick Darling and Mohammed Ahmed and senior Mickey DeFilippo for the men. All were individuals that Nuttycombe credited for a lot of the success the Badgers had despite not winning a title.DeFilippo is the only athlete who won’t be back next season due to graduation, but he made sure he left his mark before departing, setting a new outdoor school record for the pole vault of 17-feet-6-inches.Cato was the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year and 2011 Big Ten Champion in the indoor heptathlon. Block set the school record for discus at 192-feet-6-inches. Darling was a 2011 All-American, excelling in the indoor 5,000-meter run, and Ahmed finished 14th at the outdoor NCAA Championships in the 5,000-meter run.Despite the strong individual performances, the Wisconsin men’s track team finished 5th and 3rd place in the outdoor and indoor conference meets, respectively, and as always the goal is to keep climbing the ladder to the top.“Our goal is to be competitive for a Big Ten Championship every year, and we did not win either the indoor or the outdoor this year. From that perspective we felt like we didn’t reach our goals,” Nuttycombe said before adding that he is “absolutely looking forward to next year.”Several individual performers from the women’s team were equally as impressive as the up-and-coming men. The names of Dorcas Akinniyi and Jessica Flax could barely keep themselves from rolling off Stintzi’s tongue.Akinniyi and Flax finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in the outdoor NCAA Championship Heptathlon, a multi-day competition that pits competitors in seven different events. The 100-meter hurdles, long jump, shot put, javelin, 200-meter run, high jump and 800-meter run make up the seven tasks, leaving the cumulative high score the winner.Akinniyi was the Big Ten Pentathlon Champion and an All-American in the indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon for the second year running. Flax was the 2011 Big Ten Heptathlon Champion.Monika Jakutyte also showed her skill in the high jump, becoming the indoor Big Ten Champion with a jump of 5-feet-11 and a half inches. She also earned second-team All-American honors and an 11th place finish at the NCAA Championships.Sophomore Taylor Smith set school records in the discus with a mark of 172-feet-10-inches and set the school mark for the weight throw with a distance of 65-feet-6 3/4-inches.