"We are pleased to be invited to the 10-team meet. We are just glad to be there. It was interesting to look at the schedule today when we working on the itinerary. Being the defending Big Ten champions, we want to make note of that to the team, but that is so far in the past that other than bringing it to the team from a motivational standpoint, this is a completely different year and a completely different team. We are looking forward to the challenge. I think there are three teams that can win the championship. We feel we are one of those teams. I think it is going to come down just like any other athletic competition, who competes the best on the day. That's what it is all about."
How is the team different from this year to last year?
"We had some seniors last year that we lost due to leadership. Right now, we're very healthy. We are actually very young. We're going to travel 32 on the roster and only have two seniors traveling with us. I think we have as many as 23 freshmen and sophomores so we're a relatively young team, so that's much different than last year. I don't think it's different in a sense that we are going to be one of the teams vying for the championship which is a good thing. (It's the fact that) we're going to go to a site that one of the teams that has a chance to win is the host team and that always make it a little bit of an extra challenge."
Obviously your freshman class has been highly acclaimed. Can you talk about that group and how good they are?
"We were very pleased with the freshman class. We were ranked fifth in the nation from a recruiting class perspective with Chris Solinsky and Paul Hubbard. One who didn't get mentioned, who came in here at mid-year, a sprinter from Milwaukee Demi Omole is now with us. It is a good class, one that is great for building purposes, but one that we don't want to have to lean on too much. It's my philosophy that if you have a team that you have to lean on from a freshman perspective, you probably don't have a very good team overall. We are pleased from a building and youth standpoint. Hopefully, we're going to get some things from some of the upper (class), more experienced athletes to lead the way too."
Has Chris Solinsky lived up to his billing?
"Chris is an outstanding athlete. He's an outstanding person as well. I've seen some stats out there, I don't know how accurate they are, as to his times in relation to some of the great athletes from the past in the United States distance running. He's done very well thus far at a very young age and quite honestly, he's only going to get better which is the real, exciting part about it."
Do you have to strike a balance in that message to the team about being defending champions that you don't want them to think about that – rest on their laurels and get overconfident but you want them to take confidence from that to carry over?
"Well, I think you use it from a motivational standpoint. Last year, we came from 23 points down the last three events to win so I don't think we're going to take anything for granted. To be honest with you, on paper we're not the best team. I think Minnesota is the best team on paper. The only saving grace in that respect is that I thought the same last year. We're close enough where if we compete well, we have a chance but we will definitely have to compete well to win."
You have been around for awhile and you've won a few Big Ten championships. How much does coaching come in to play in a meet of this sort as you set your lineup for certain events?
"Some years it's pretty easy as to where you put your lineup. You just know what it's going to be and there's little doubt in your own office as well as in other offices. This year we have some big choices to make. Hopefully, we're going to make the right ones. Of course, that depends upon how other people play their lineup out and how we run. The lineup and the way you do the lineup can sometimes be very, very important. To answer your original statement, yes, I have been around here a long time. Sometimes I am reminded of that more than others. It's been a great challenge and I'm looking forward to this one as much as I have any of the ones in the past."
Do you have the edge in the fact that you've won a Big Ten title?
"I think there is an advantage to that as opposed to
being, not only a coach but a team that's never been there. Our guys expect to
win and expect to compete well. Whether we do or not, I don't know, we'll see. I
think the expectations are such that they expect to do well. I think that comes
from some leadership and perhaps coaching. Definitely leadership from other
teammates, particularly ones that have been there and have won those titles."
Monday Press Conference Participants
Mike Eaves - men's hockey
Ed Nuttycombe - men's track and field
Lisa Stone - women's hockey
Bo Ryan - men's basketball