Monday press conference: Ed Nuttycombe

Men's track coach discussed the upcoming Big Ten championships

"We're looking forward to the opportunity to go and I guess make a shot at defending our title. It's going to be a very tough meet. The conference has gotten a lot more balanced. There's three, if not four, very good teams in the conference. But I think we're ready. We're relatively healthy and looking forward to the challenge."

Ed, this might be premature to ask this question and it's encompassing a lot, but do you think potentially this could be your strongest team?

"It's a very good team. I mean, we did well last year and we returned a great number of the points back. I think perhaps maybe at the national level it may be one of our better teams, yes. At the conference level, we've been fortunate to have a few pretty good teams. This may be one of them. As Jim said, I guess that's what we're going to go and find out."

Ed, how do you get across to your athletes that wearing the bulls-eye is the way it is with you guys with the titles that you've won? Is it something that your guys embrace? Is it something that you have to kind of approach differently with some guys, or is it just the philosophy of your program that people are going to chase you and we're going to be out front as many times as we possibly can?

"I think at the beginning of the year, meaning the beginning of the track season, I think we probably were not as cognizant of how strong a couple of the other teams might be. We knew they'd be chasing us. You said bulls-eye and I think that's correct. We've made a lot of teams struggle at the Big Ten championship while we've done well.

"There are two or three different polls, as there are in any sport, but there's one poll that has three of the Big Ten teams, and we happen to be the third-ranked one. The second-, third-, and fifth-ranked team in the nation are Big Ten. There's another poll where the power rankings, which are dual-meet rankings, have the No. 1 team in the nation in Indiana. We're fourth, and Michigan is ranked very high, too.

"So I think at the beginning of the year it was, it's not we thought we were going to waltz through anything. I don't think you ever approach that. Never underestimate the enemy we like to say, because if you think you're the only one trying to win that's when you start getting in trouble. But I think the realization in the last several weeks, three or four weeks in general, that it's going to be a very tough battle and that perhaps we're not even the best team in the conference at this point. I think they will rally to that."

Ed, did you know fully what you had in Demi Omole a year ago, or did it take a year of having him to really fully understand, because you talk about what it means to have a weapon like him. And I think last year you said coming in he didn't have the training right after the transfer and how different is he now with a full solid year of training?

"Well, it's interesting. He more or less kind of raced himself into shape last year. You're right. He did not have a fall. At this point last year, he was very under-raced, very, very under-trained. It took him, particularly outdoors, it took him halfway through the season to really get rolling.

"But by the outdoor championship part of the season, you began to realize he was pretty special. And he was the top-ranked freshman in the nation last year in the 100 meters, finished fifth at the NCAAs. And I think that speaks very highly for itself, especially for a true freshman. So you're correct. I think we had hoped that he would be of that caliber. Now we know he is."

Ed, who's your best 5,000-meter runner? It looks like you've got about nine of them.

"You're correct. Who would be the best? I'm going to go with the fastest. That's the safest answer to go with. Matt Tegenkamp's pretty tough. And he's ranked No. 1 in the nation at this point right now. So you'd have to say Matt. But he's got a whole slew of young men running right behind him. They're awful, awful good.

"They went out to a meet in Washington, a very, very high-quality meet, two weeks ago. And it's one of those meets where they tend to congregate at particular events. And a high-quality group of people showed up for the 5,000 race and we put six in the top nine. And I think perhaps maybe surprised ourselves a little bit, but definitely surprised the country at not only the upfront quality, but the quality of the depth."

What have you seen out of Matt this year? Is it just a matter of being completely healthy and just being a senior, do you think, those things coming together?

"There's no question. Matt has struggled at times with being healthy. He is healthy right now. And, you know, I think he really wants to optimize that last opportunity. He's been on numerous Big Ten championship teams and run well at the NCAA's, but I don't think he's ever felt where he has run as well as he could have or anticipated to at the NCAA's. And I know that's a real, real high goal for him this year, is to do well at the NCAA's personally and then team-wise hopefully improve too."

Ed, when you score the meet given the strength of those teams you talked about, how tight you think it could be or will be?

"I think there's three very, very good teams: Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. If I were an odds-maker, and actually that is the way it is seeded or scored right now, you would have to go with Indiana as the odds-on favorite. They're not so much better than the other two that they cannot make a mistake. I think Michigan and Wisconsin are kind of chasing them. And I think those are the three best teams, after that there's a little bit of a scramble. But as I said before, when you're talking about three of the top five teams in the country being Big Ten teams, you know there's some strength up front. It's going to be a great meet. We're going to have to have a great weekend to win."

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