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October 13, 2014

Mick Byrne

THE MODERATOR:  The men's and women's cross‑country teams will host the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Friday at the Zimmer Championship Course at University Ridge.  The women's race starts at 11 am with the men's race scheduled to start at 11:45.  Director of cross‑country and track and field Mick Byrne is here; we'll have some opening comments and take questions.
COACH MICK BYRNE:  As we head into Adidas, we've got three meets under our belts on both men and women.  Some great story lines coming out of the three meets.  Most notably on the women's side are two milers from last outdoor season Sarah Disanza and Molly Hanson, stepping up big time this season in cross‑country.
I'm not surethat we ‑‑ I thought we expected that, but Sarah Disanza winning down in Louisville last weekend was a great confidence builder for the team.
I expect her to go on to some great things as the season progresses here.  And when you add Emma‑Lisa Murphy and Gabby Anzalone to both of our milers, I think we've got a great foursome up front, and now it's just a matter of finding a supporting cast for them on the men's side, we saw some great running by some redshirt freshmen, and always that's something that we're always looking forward to, see those young guys step up to the plate and help out the big guns up front, obviously Malachy Schrobilgen, the BIG TEN champion from last year and Michael Van Voorhis, which in itself is a great story line.  But to see some of our young guys really step up last weekend was good.
What you're looking for this time of year is always improvement from one race and we're certainly starting to see that, so I think we're in a pretty good spot right now going into Adidas, but we all know the Adidas meet is a lot different.  It's the major leagues compared to what we've been facing the last couple of weekends.
For the Adidas meet we have on the men's side 15 of the top 20 teams and on the women's side 14 of the top 20 teams.  And when you break it down, it's 6 of the top 10 on the men's side and 6 of the top 10 teams in the current rankings.
We've put together a pretty good meet and we're excited about that.

Q.  You guys have obviously had great runners over the last couple of years with Mohammed and Maverick Darling.  Hard not to compare a guy like Malachy to them, but what sort of potential do you think that he has?  Is that he kind of competitive?
COACH MICK BYRNE:  I mean I think you saw that last year.  BIG TEN champion as a redshirt freshmen.  I think we'd have to go way back in the history books to find a freshmen that did that.  Coming out of the NCAA meet finishing 30th all American.  Right now he looked really good last weekend in Louisville, on his first effort out for this campaign and kind of rug burner for him.  I expect to see him having a really good run this weekend.
He's going to lead the team‑‑ he's got the green light, as we say, and we expect to see him up front with the leaders.

Q.  Given the quality of the field, the number of teams that are in here, which suggests that this is a pretty good meet.  What's the attraction to these teams?  Is it just your quick wit and personality?  How have you built this event to the point that it is?
COACH MICK BYRNE:  Certainly the Thomas Zimmer championship cross‑country course has a lot to do with it.  I think, you know, we do a great job of maintaining the course.  You go out there and it looks like the fairways of the golf course.  It's very similar to that.  Big, open spaces, big alleyways, great spectator alleyways.  It's a fantastic spectator course.
I expect we'll have a big crowd out there.  Also, the fact that we have all these teams competing in one race as opposed to the old pre‑nationals format where it used to be they break the race up because of size into two different races and that's like comparing apples and oranges.
Here it's 20 of the best teams in the country, top teams are coming here and they're going to compete against each other.  You walk away at the end of the day, you know exactly where you stack up.
Also there's points to be grabbed for the NCAA qualification and that's got a lot to do with it.

Q.  How has Sarah Disanza improved from last year to this year?
COACH MICK BYRNE:  I know last year she was considered mainly a miler.  Done a lot of work, a lot of distance work, base work over the summer and has dropped a few‑‑ she looks real healthy, looks real fit.  Dropped a few pounds.  She looks just extremely fit right now, and last week showed that.

Q.  Given the quality of the course that you just talked about and the teams that are here, what's standing between this school and an NCAA championship meet at that facility?
COACH MICK BYRNE:  You know, we've had several dress rehearsals.  Now we have obviously the Adidas meet we host.  We host again this year the regional meet.  I think we're ready for it.  I think we're positioning ourselves to put in a bid.  We've talked at length about it, and now it's just, you know, do we want to host it, do we want to host it for multiple years, and I think that's going to be an issue.
The course can certainly hold a number of competitors and spectators.  Obviously an issue is parking, but we hope to be able to resolve that.  I think we have to start working closely with the town of Verona.  If you do an economic study on what the Adidas meet brings to the city of Verona over this week alone with number of hotels, rooms and restaurants, I think we'd be pretty surprised.  So I think we have to take that information, bring it to Verona, ask them for help to figure out the parking situation because at the next level, in NCAA meets, obviously we're talking 10, 15,000 spectators.  But I don't think that's an impossible task.

Q.  You said earlier that this meet is kind of the measuring stick at this point in the season.  Having said that, what do you hope to see from your team on this weekend at the Adidas meet?
COACH MICK BYRNE:  Certainly ‑‑ let's take the women.  Coming off a big win in Louisville, they're kind of positioned themselves to hopefully be in the top 5 or 6 teams and grab some big points for our NCAA qualifications.  That makes things a little bit easier as you head into the BIG TEN championships because you just don't know what's going to happen.
We're not real deep.  I think we're very good up front, and at this time of year you just don't know with the weather, the weather is changing rapidly around here, and you want to keep kids healthy, I'm talking not just injury stuff but also cold and flus and stuff, so we certainly want to be in the Top 5 or 6 teams on Friday and grab some points for NCAA qualifications.  I think we're capable of doing that.  We've got four pretty strong runners up front and we just need someone to back them up there in the fifth scoring spot.
I think on the men's side it's the same.  You know, a couple of those young guys, redshirt guys from last year stepped up bigtime in Louisville.  We're going to need some of that on Friday.  We've got some cards that we have to play yet, and maybe use Friday as a time for us to show what we have in some of our younger guys, but Malachy and Michael Van Voorhis, I have no doubt that they'll do their job up front and we just need to get that supporting cast.
It's very easy in a race like this to get lost and get overwhelmed, but hopefully we've prepared our kids mentally for that part of it, because a lot of these kids are just not used to running in a field.  You could be running 50, 60, 70th place and think you're not running well, but you could actually be doing very well.

Q.  Mick, both the men and the women are top 15 programs.  But given that you're coaching the women for the first time, given that you lost a lot of guys from the men's team, front runners from the men's team, can you make a case of you're rebuilding on both sides or is that farfetched?
COACH MICK BYRNE:  I never liked to use those terms, the rebuilding phrase.  Thomas the Builder always talked about building a big foundation, and you can't build a house on it unless you have a good foundation.  So you know, for us right now I think we're building that foundation.
You know, we've been spoiled a little bit over the last couple of years with some of those guys like Mohammed, Reed Connor, Maverick Darling.  I mean those guys just ‑‑ they laid a great foundation, I think, and some of the youngers guys understand what their responsibility is now, and that's what we're trying to do; we're trying to build from that foundation over the last three or four years.
We've got some good, young freshmen that somewhere along the line here will probably put out the uniform.
THE MODERATOR:  Anything else for coach?  Great.  Thanks, Mick.

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