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November 10, 2014

Mick Byrne

THE MODERATOR:¬† The cross‑country teams will host the 2014 NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Friday at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross‑Country Course.¬† The women's race begins at noon with the men's race starting at 1 p.m., and both Badger teams enter the race ranked sixth in the country.¬† Director of cross‑country and track and field, Mick Byrne, is here.¬† We'll have some opening comments and take questions.
COACH BYRNE:  Coming off the BIG TEN meet a week ago, obviously it is a great buzz around here, a lot of confidence on both squads.
The women getting ranked sixth for the first time since 2008, that's awesome.  They're very excited about the up coming meet, the regional meet here at home and obviously the NCAA championships, and the men winning back our BIG TEN trophy.  That was awesome.
We're looking forward to this coming Friday running at home on the Thomas Zimmer course, and hopefully we get a big crowd out there, the weather cooperates.  It looks like we're going to avoid the snow that they've been predicting for the last three or four days and that's good, so we're excited about competing again at home this weekend.

Q.¬† In a lot of sports, being at home is a big advantage.¬† How big an advantage in cross‑country is being at home?
COACH BYRNE:  I think it's a huge advantage.  We're very familiar with the course.  Going to have a lot of support out there, we believe, on Friday.
When we're out there working out, we talk about the advantage points on that course.¬† There are some particularly on the men's side as you move up to‑‑ from 8K up to 10K.¬† With a young squad for the last two or three months running on that course once or twice a week, hopefully it's stand to them.¬† I think it's going to be very important for those young kids on Friday.

Q.  Given your recent history, what do you consider a success going into a weekend like this?
COACH BYRNE:  Certainly on the women's side, it's going to be repeated BIG TEN.  Michigan State, the No. 1 team in the country, and if we look at the race as it unfold at the BIG TEN championships, for a long time in that race we had the No. 1 team in the country on the ropes, and in fact, right around 4K I bumped into Walter Drenth, the coach from Michigan State, and he basically turned to me and said, you guys got it.
And it wasn't a 4K race.  Unfortunately it was a 6K race, and they came like a train over the last 2K.  And you know, kudos to our women.  They did a great job of executing the race plan, formulated by Coach Miller and ran with a lot of poise, a lot of confidence.
So I expect to see a battle with Michigan State.  And don't rule out Michigan.  They were missing their No. 1 runner at the BIG TEN meet in Erin Finn.  She's a great athlete and maybe we'll see her again on Friday.
So on the women's side, hopefully you get out of this meet without beating yourself up too much and move onto next weekend.¬† Right now, in terms of both squads, it looks like that we have plenty of at‑large points, so if we don't get in the Top 2, we still have a real good shot of moving forward to the NCAA championships.¬† But I've never liked moving forward as an at‑large team, but it is what it is, and we'll just see what the conditions bring, we'll see what the race brings on Friday, but I think we're in a good position right now to advance at Terre Haute.
The same on the men's side.¬† You know, we're very young.¬† We got four freshmen.¬† Two true freshmen who have never run 10K.¬† This time last year they're running 5 a in high school and they're going to double that distance on Friday.¬† It's a little daunting when you consider that.¬† But these guys are tough guys, and hopefully from their perspective they don't be too afraid of it and they'll relish the challenge, and you know, having big guns up front like Malachy and Michael Van Voorhis might give us an opportunity to be able to sit back and watch the race develop as opposed to getting the race involved like the BIG TEN meet.¬† That was a gut‑wrenching hard‑fought battle with Indiana certainly, and also Michigan.
So maybe we can relax, but you don't want to go in with that attitude too much, because with young guys, you tell them to relax, they may just relax a little bit too much.

Q.¬† What does Malachy do ‑‑ to win back‑to‑back BIG TEN title pretty extraordinary, especially at his young age.¬† Do you see him as a leader on this team even though he is so young because you have such a young team going right now?
COACH BYRNE:¬† I think it's both Malachy and Michael Van Voorhis, I think they've both stepped up into that role.¬† They've both relished that role, but when Malachy speaks in the locker room to the younger guys, you know, being a double BIG TEN champion and an NCAA All‑American has got some credence.¬† The guys listen to him.¬† They know that he's experienced.
When he talks about reading the race correctly, when he talks about having confidence in our training and in executing the race plan, those guys listen to him because of his experience.

Q.  Mick, with the youth on the men's team, how much of the training that's gone into this will carry them through what's ahead and how much do you have to coach them about what to expect in a regional or National Championship?
COACH BYRNE:  Training at this point is, you know, it's vital.  I always say we're in the month of November and overcooked turkey doesn't taste real good.  The hay is in the barn.  We're in Wisconsin, a lot of hay around here.
You know, with those guys, particularly with the true freshmen, the big thing last week was just making sure that they cover from a hard effort, a real hard effort at the BIG TEN championships, and it took a couple of days.  We gave them some extra days recovery, and we really didn't work out till Friday.  So looked real good on Friday, just with those extra couple of days of rest.
In terms of what we can actually do, it's light workouts, just keeping their legs moving, and it's more in their head now.  You know, probably have some doubts about going the 10K distance, but you know, at the end of the day, it's a team event.  They understand their role and the importance that they play in the team concept and the team scoring.  So I don't think it's that hard.
When we get out there on Friday and the gun goes off, it's going to be a repeat of the BIG TEN.  It's going to be us, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, probably Notre Dame in there, and you know, they came through with flying colors obviously from the BIG TEN.  So hopefully they'll do the same on Friday.

Q.  And Mick, given how much the women have improved and looking for continued improvement, what more can you expect out of them in the NCAA portion of the season?
COACH BYRNE:¬† Yeah, they seem to be just getting going from one race to the other getting stronger.¬† They've learned not to compete against each other, but to compete with each other, and again, in cross‑country, that's very important.
They're enjoying this run that they're having.  It goes all the way back to the Adidas meet and obviously at the big tens, to be able to come out at the big tens and compete with the No. 1 team in the country.
I mean for a while there in that race we thought we had it, and you know, after it the girls were a little bit disappointed, but you know, when we kind of sat them down and explained to them that, hey, look, you finished second to the No. 1 team in the country.  You beat another top 5 or 6 team.  They understand what they accomplished out there.  So it's just keeping that momentum going.  Now it's just keeping that confidence and keeping them excited about where they're at.

Q.¬† Last question, can you explain the mid‑day starts on Fridays, and is that the optimal time for running as a cross‑country runner?
COACH BYRNE:  Well, considering what the weather is going to be, they're talking about mid 20s and with some wind, you know, it's going to be cold.  We'd prefer to run at that time than run at 2:00 in the afternoon, 3:00 and the sun starts to set.  It would obviously be colder.
You know, for a couple of kids this is the first time we're going to be running in that type of weather.¬† Morgan McDonald is from Sydney.¬† He's never run‑‑ he never saw snow before.¬† He doesn't know what 20 degrees feels like.
The women seem to do a much better job with it than the men.  I'm not sure why, but obviously a lot of our women are from the Midwest and they relish it, and we've already talked to them about it, and didn't seem to phase them, but the guys are always looking for an excuse.  (Laughs).
THE MODERATOR:  Anything else for coach?
COACH BYRNE:  Thank you.

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