Where Your Dreams Become Reality
Madison Debuts Sweet New Course With A Great Day Of Cross Country
On a day tailor-made for cross country running, the University of Wisconsin unveiled a beautiful new championship course in front of a large crowd.
Wisconsin cross country alumni Matt Tegenkamp, Chris Solinsky, Evan Jager and Simon Bairu returned to Madison to run the alumni 5k race only to watch in vain as former Badger Cody See beat them to the line in a rare blanket finish. The winning time of 15:59 was credited to each of the top-5 by our unofficial scorer. Tegenkamp, just 3 minutes off of his new sub-13:00 PB, was nearly disqualified after an early-race elbow as the tight pack rounded a corner but the physical maneuver was deemed acceptable. After twice winning the NCAA individual cross country championship while wearing the Badger uniform, Canada's Bairu was surprised he didn't win today after a full night of sleep and many mixed drinks of Gatorade and water on the rocks the night before.
The accomplished Wisconsin runners were back in town to celebrate Solinsky's bachelor party, which happily coincided with the first big meet run on what will likely become one of the nation's most prominent cross country courses, the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course.
After hearing the hype from Wisconsin coach Mick Byrne, who dubbed the grass course "the best course in the country" earlier in the year, we decided to make the trip to Madison and sample the course ourselves. It certainly didn't hurt that our brother just moved out to Madison, or that we've heard that Madison is an awesome city, or that we were offered a spot on the lead cart to watch the races.
The course lived up to the billing. Despite fairly unpleasant spectating weather (great running weather: 50 degrees, breezy, occasional sprinkles, very cloudy) we loved the course. The footing and grass quality is excellent, the layout is compact and very twisty and turny much like the current NCAA Championship course in Terre Haute. Spectators commented that they were easily able to see the men's runners (8k course) six or seven times in the race as they traversed the course that folds over on itself a couple times allowing spectators to scamper from spot to spot easily.
The hills on this course are steeper than in Terre Haute, and there isn't a huge valley of high weeds in between the start/finish and inner loops like one has to traverse in Indiana. We applaud the University of Wisconsin for making the considerable effort to turn an unused chunk of land into a great place for runners to compete.
Speaking of Madison, Wisconsin's capitol city is one of a kind. In less than 72 hours, we've run along Lake Mendota on a nice dirt path, run twice in "The Arb" and ripped a great long run on the Military Ridge Trails. Since you likely judge a city on elements other than the quality of local soft running paths, we'll also mention that Madison has every kind of entertainment you could possibly want within walking distance. They've got restaurants serving food from all but the most obscure nations (we still haven't seen any Kazakhstani food but would also not at all be surprised if there was such a place), great bars, tons of shops, and tons of unique, culturally diverse establishments. Not to mention their football team is still undefeated after retaining Paul Bunyan's Axe by defeating rival Minnesota on Saturday. Madison is a happening place.
The Men's Race - Syracuse Surprisingly Dominates
The northeast region's Syracuse Orangemen ran a very smart race and ended up dominating a strong field. The pace was taken out very quickly by Arkansas runners Lane Boyer and Solomon Haile. The mile was passed under 4:30. Syracuse runners stayed off the front of the race until the pace settled down to running 3:00 - 3:10 kms, steadily moving up until there were five Orangemen in the top-25 during the middle miles.
Arkansas' team race did not go well as their early leaders faded and finished 17th and 20th. Meanwhile, Syracuse was led by Tito Medrano and Brad Miller, who stuck near the front with Georgetown's Andrew Bumbalough and Mark Dennin, Auburn's Ben Cheruiyot, and Iowa's Jeff Thode.
Eventually Bumbalough was able to push the pace between the 6k and 7k, splitting the 2-dozen strong lead pack. Only Thode was able to respond and challenge Bumbalough in the final 400m, but Bumbalough had put the race on cruise control for a while and was able to accelerate and get the win.
Highly-ranked Georgetown had to settle for second on the day. Syracuse managed to hold on the best, placing 3, 5, 8, 10, and 15 in a talented field. Chris Fox's team, after a strong start in 2008, is off to another strong start in 2009 that should earn them a national top-15 ranking.
The home team had good performances from redshirt freshman Maverick Darling and true freshman Reed Connor as well as sophomore Elliot Krause. But NCAA XC All-American Landon Peacock struggled as did Craig Miller who was suffering from a sinus infection. Wisconsin's very talented freshman Mohammed Ahmed from Canada did not race as his summer season lasted well into August and he isn't ready to race yet. Jack Bolas also sat out for the Badgers.
The big disasters on the day were Michigan and Auburn. Mark Carrol's Tiger squad are going to plummet out of the rankings as they have shown no depth and finished in 12th place. Michigan also have not found their top gear and finished well-beaten in 9th place.
Syracuse was definitely the big winner on the day as they will likely pick up NCAA at-large points (if they need them later in the year) by defeating very good Georgetown and Wisconsin teams as well as Arkansas who will likely be top-2 in their region despite not firing on all cylinders right now.
The most intriguing individual battle was between 2008 Nike Cross Nationals champion and Gatorade Runner Of The Year Reed Connor of Wisconsin and 2008 Foot Locker winner Solomon Haile of Arkansas. Solomon and Connor had never raced before but ended up kicking down the stretch together with Connor holding him off. See an interview with Reed Connor to the right. (see all of our uploaded videos here)
Men's Team Results *Full Results
1st Place: Syracuse 41
Men's Individual Results *Full Results
1 1 171 Andrew Bumbalough SR Georgetown 23:54.0 4:47
Women's Race - BYU's Cecily Lemmon Upsets Illinois NCAA Champ Angela Bizzarri As Duke Wins Good Team Competition
The women's race got out very fast at 3:12 for the first kilometer before slowing to 3:39 in the second km. The lead pack was huge as everyone tried to stay with the hot early pace. Many runners paid a big price for the fast opening kilometer as the field became way more strung out than the men's race.
After hanging back a bit in the begining, Angela Bizzarri of Illinois and Hollie Knight of Auburn assumed the lead running in identical orange-colored jerseys. Not much happened in the women's race until Bizzari started to pull away in the final kilometer. BYU's Cecily Lemmon was a presence at the front for the entire race and refused to let Bizzari get away. Lemmon caught her in the final stretch and opened up a gap, looking very calm and smooth the entire way. At least in this early season meet, Lemmon looked like a runner who will contend for a top-10 spot at the NCAAs after beating one of the top 5000m runners in the country in Bizzari.
Women's Team Results *Full Results
1st Place: #29 Duke 78
Women's Individual Results *Full Results
1 1 27 Cecily Lemmon JR BYU 17:00.3 5:29