Men's track: Badgers hope to retain crown

Wisconsin has right mix for fifth straight title, but Badgers have company this year

In sports, a program usually is coined a "dynasty" after a number of consecutive championships. Most recently, the New England Patriots earned the title with their third Super Bowl victory in four years and the Chicago Bulls were widely recognized as a dynasty during the Michael Jordan era.

The Badger men's track team may not be quite as well recognized as a dynasty, but with four consecutive Big Ten Indoor Championships to its name, it is the closest thing to such a team at Wisconsin. This weekend the team will travel to Purdue in search of extending the streak to five straight championships.

"I think most of us are pretty excited because we have a chance to continue our title hunt," sophomore captain Nathan Brown said. "That's something we're looking forward to do. We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves … I'm feeling really confident about what we can do and I think if we have a good meet with all the contributors I think that we should have a good chance at getting the seventh [sic fifth] title."

Before the dynasty can be extended, though, the Badgers will have to pass by a few key contenders.

Indiana, ranked No. 1 in the Team Power Rankings, is the favorite to claim this season's conference crown. The Hoosiers, could prove to be fifth-ranked Wisconsin's biggest competition.

"It's basically like a dual meet between us and Indiana," sophomore sprinter Demi Omole said. "If we go out and have the meet we're expected to have we should easily come out on top. We just can't afford any slip-ups."

Michigan is another team that could creep up on the Badgers. They are tied with Wisconsin at No. 3 in the Trackwire top 25 and are No. 2 in the Team Power Rankings. Rankings aside, however, Omole does not see Michigan as a threat.

"Michigan, they're good but they're not going to win Big Tens," Omole said. "They don't have enough depth. They have a lot of really good top placers but they don't have enough people to place throughout the event."

As for the Hoosiers, they do have enough people to place — especially in the distance events. Currently juniors Sean and John Jefferson hold the No. 1 and 2 spots in the nation, respectively, for the mile run. Wisconsin also has depth in this event and will most likely get points from senior Josh Spiker, junior Ben Gregory and sophomore Chris Solinsky.

In the 5,000-meter race, Wisconsin has enormous depth. Senior Matt Tegenkamp won the event at last year's championships and is in prime position to do the same this year. His time of 13:36.48 puts him at the best in the Big Ten followed closely behind by Solinsky's 13.39.07. Four other Badgers are currently ranked in the top 10 for the event. As for Indiana, junior Stephen Haas will provide the biggest competition. His time of 13:41.42 is third best in the Big Ten and a school record for Indiana.

As for the sprint events, Omole will be a hard person to catch for any Big Ten team. He has already qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 60-meters and will look to do the same this weekend in the 200-meters. As for this weekend, Omole has a few expectations of himself as well as another Badger sprinter.

"I'm looking to set the Big Ten meet record in the 60," Omole said. "Me and (senior) Jvontai (Hanserd) are going one and two in the 200 but we don't really care who wins as long as we don't lose to anyone from Indiana."

Wisconsin's depth does not stop at the running events. They are also well-stocked in the long jump with last year's champion, sophomore Paul Hubbard, last year's triple-jump favorite, junior Alonzo Moore, and the current Big Ten leader, junior Joe Conway. Indiana also has its own weapon in junior Aarik Wilson. He has the No. 1 mark nationally for the triple jump and sits at the No. 3 spot in the nation for the long jump.

While Wisconsin may have the edge due to their past success at the championships, the slate is once again wiped clean going into this weekend.

"As a team I want to win, I don't care about anything else, I just want to win," Conway said. "None of us like to lose; we are the most competitive group of people you'll ever meet, no matter what it is."

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