Hanserd sprinting to the finish

Fifth-year senior hopes to extend his college career, help 400 relay reach NCAA Championships

Tuesday, a day before the University of Wisconsin men's track team trekked to Bloomington, Ind. for this weekend's NCAA Mideast Regional, Jvontai Hanserd ran an extra 100 meter sprint, after practice, before trotting across the infield at the McClimon Track Complex in Madison.

The fifth-year senior did not need the extra work. He was just a little bored, he said affably. After spending the outdoor track season competing, and typically scoring, in as many as five events for the Badgers, focusing on just one—the 400 relay—leaves some spare time in Hanserd's training regimen.

"Usually this time of year I'm training for the 4-by-1 and the 200," Hanserd said. "It's a change this year but let's make the best of what you have and hopefully we can do something on Saturday."

Hanserd qualified for the regional in the 200 meters as a junior and as a sophomore, but he was two-hundredths of a second away from doing so this year. Still, this has been a remarkable year for Hanserd. On the heels of a strong indoor season, he placed in four events at the Big Ten outdoor championships two weeks ago, including with the back-to-back first-place 400 relay, which helped the Badgers win the conference's ‘triple crown' for the second consecutive year.

Now, Hanserd's energies are focused solely on running the second leg of the 400 relay, as he and sophomore teammates Brian Calhoun (first leg), Dan Goesch and Demi Omole (anchor) attempt to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

"We are very, very excited about what's to come," Hanserd said. "We can definitely stick our nose up there at the top end of the region and qualify for the NCAAs and break the school record hopefully, which is a lofty goal. But I think we can do it."

Breaking the school record 39.64 set five years ago would mean shaving .45 seconds off the squad's best mark this season, a 40.08. But after playing it relatively safe throughout the season, the Badgers feel that mark is in sight.

"I think they do have the physical talent to do it," said head coach Ed Nuttycombe, who works directly with the sprinters. "The 4-by-1 is like a lot of things. There's a fine line between success and failure. And the closer you tread that line the faster you can run and the quicker it can disintegrate on you.

"We're going to go for it this week and see what happens."

As a measure of the quartet's talent, both Hanserd and Nuttycombe said the team ran a conservative relay at the Big Tens to ensure they finished in first place and secured 10 points for the team.

"We were the No. 1 seed going in and we had run the most consistent during the course of the year," Nuttycombe said. "So it really was our race to lose… I told them: ‘As long as we don't beat ourselves,' which can happen, ‘we will win the race.'"

A much different tone has been set for this weekend.

"Before we ran for the University of Wisconsin," Nuttycombe said. "This time we'll run for the 4-by-1 team."

"This time we are going to kind of let out the reigns a little bit and cut it loose and see what happens," Nuttycombe said. "We are not going to gamble. We are just going to kind of spread the baton exchanges out a little bit and kind of go for it a little more."

Twilight of a career

Breaking the school record in the 400 relay and placing at the NCAA Championships would be a sparkling way to close out a successful college career for Hanserd. He began training with the Badgers in the fall of 2000 and redshirted the indoor and outdoor seasons in the spring of 2001.

A year later, Hanserd slipped into the valley and climbed to the peak all in the final day of the Big Ten outdoor championships. In the 400 relay, Hanserd and B.J. Tucker mishandled an exchange of the baton, causing UW to drop from first to third in the event. But in the meet's final event, Hanserd helped the 1,600 relay team place second, securing the overall team title by just four points.

"He didn't have as good a race as he would like to have had (in the 400 relay)," Nuttycombe said. "But ever since then he's been the Rock of Gibraltar. Just been very consistent."

Three years later Hanserd (who recently completed an undergraduate degree in international relations and is considering a career in government service) is the elder statesman on an underclassmen dominated relay and one of the few seniors to play a key role in the UW program's ever-building momentum.

"He just brings that stability… that consistency that you hope all the upperclassmen bring," Nuttycombe said.

"I was glad I was able to help and be a role model and leader while also being able compete with some of these guys," Hanserd said. "It's been great."

At Rockford Jefferson High School, Hanserd was a four-time conference champion in the 400 (state champ as a junior) and a three-time conference title holder in the 100 and 200. He also competed at times in the 800.

At Wisconsin, Hanserd began his career running the open 400, and the 400 and 1,600 relays. As a sophomore he branched out to the open 200 and he added the 100 full time this year. He was just eight-hundredths of a second shy of qualifying for regionals in the 100.

At the Big Ten outdoor championships this year he placed seventh in the 100 (10.61), sixth in the 200 (21.48) and the 1,600 relay was sixth (3:15.67). Throw in the 400 relay and Hanserd was part of 18 points in UW's record-setting 174-point effort.

"That was the most (events) I've ever scored in," Hanserd said. "I think I ended with a bang."

After placing second in the Big Ten indoors in the 200 this year, Hanserd was disappointed with his outdoor performance in the event, but winning the triple crown, having the opportunity to place on the national stage in the 400 relay, and his scoring mark in the 100 lifted his spirits. And four seasons of success at Wisconsin have given Hanserd measured confidence.

"I believed in myself in high school but now I'm 100 percent confident that if I go out there and I run hard something great's going to happen," he said.

Regional competitors

The Badgers have 20 athletes spread across 13 events for the NCAA Mideast Regional, which takes place Friday and Saturday at the Robert C. Haugh Track Complex on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Ind.

The top five finishers in each individual event and the top three teams in each relay automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships, June 8-11 in Sacramento, Calif. The rest of the top eight regional finishers are eligible for at-large bids to the national meet.

The Badgers already have five athletes qualified for the NCAAs: junior Simon Bairu, sophomore Tim Nelson and senior Antony Ford in the 10,000 meters; and sophomore Nate Brown and junior Ben Roland in the decathlon.

UW men's track and field athletes competing this weekend:

Demi Omole, ranked seventh in the 100 meters (10.32) and eighth in the 200 (20.77).
Paul Check, 19th, 110 hurdles (14.04)
Ben Gregory, seventh, 1,500 (3:43.56)
Josh Spiker, ninth, 1,500 (3:44.19)
Bobby Lockhart, 18th, steeplechase (9:00.85)
Codie See, 22nd, steeplechase (9:03.01)
Matt Tegenkamp, first, 5,000 (13:31.98)
Chris Solinsky, second, 5,000 (13:38.92)
Simon Bairu, fourth, 5,000 (13:43.72)
Tim Keller, 15th, 5,000 (14:07.41)
Brian Calhoun, Jvontai Hanserd, Dan Goesch and Demi Omole, sixth, 400 relay (40.08)
Brent Boettcher, fourth, high jump (7-0 ½)
Darren Niedermeyer, ninth, pole vault (16-6 ¾)
Alonzo Moore, sixth, triple jump (52-1 ¾)
Rick Bellford, seventh, triple jump (51-10 ¾)
Joe Thomas, fourth, shot put (62-5 ¼)
Joe Thomas, 11th, discus (177-2)
Mike Sracic, 35th, discus (166-0)
Nate Brown, sixth, javelin (201-1)

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