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February 22, 2016

Mick Byrne

Madison, Wisconsin

THE MODERATOR: The men's and women's track and field teams compete Friday and Saturday in the Indoor Championships in Geneva, Ohio. On the women's side, senior Kelsey Card leads the conference in both the shotput and weight throw and is the defending Big Ten champion in both events. Sophomore Morgan McDonald is the Big Ten's top ranked runner in both the men's mile and 3,000 meters. Earlier this season, he broke the Badgers school record in the mile with a run 3:57.83. In addition, senior Zach Ziemek, who competed in last years world championships for Team USA, is the league leader in the heptathlon. For the first time, both days of the indoor championships will stream live on BTN Plus.

Head coach Mick Byrne is here.

COACH BYRNE: First of all, it's always great to sit next to our former sports information guy, Brian Mason.

THE MODERATOR: The honor is mine.

COACH BYRNE: It seems like Brian just gave you a whole season of information, so I have nothing to say.

In terms of the season, we always look to January and February as we head into the Big Ten meet. I feel we've had a great mix of competitions, different types of competitions to prepare us for this weekend. Certainly, when we go back to January, the two dual meets were a lot of fun. Great to go head to head against Notre Dame and certainly going up to Minnesota for the dual against Minnesota. That was an exciting meet. A lot of fans showed up for that meet and just a different format.

To be honest, I think they're the type of meets, those dual meets or tri meets that really prepare our student-athletes for competitions like the Big Ten where times, height, and distances don't really matter. It's all about competition. Let's face it, that's what the Big Ten is about.

After the dual meets, we headed to New York and had an exciting meet. It's a different format. More of a multi-day competition with a lot of events starting at 9:00 a.m. and going all the way to 6:00 p.m. We got a lot of work done in New York and kind of prepared us for going out to Iowa State, which, again, is a different format because at Iowa State you want your big guns to throw down some national performances, and we certainly got some great performances from our team leaders.

Last week at home, last weekend, for the Red & White Open, the big challenge for our kids is always let's get more kids on the bus. Let's increase the rosters for the Big Ten meet. Certainly, we added a few roster spots, and that's good because you challenge your kids to perform at the Red & White Open, and for kids that were on the bubble, we got a few bubble kids onto the bus for Big Tens.

As with any program, you're always looking for your Big Ten leaders to during the season do some good stuff. Certainly on the women's side, Kelsey Card, in the shot No. 2 in the nation and No. 9 in the weight throw. And also, Georgia Ellenwood is No. 5 in the pentathlon.

On the men's side, as always, steady Eddie, double Z, Zach Ziemek, great performance in Northern Iowa in the heptathlon, right now ranked fifth in the country. And kind of unexpected, the new kid on the block, Morgan McDonald, our Aussie, who came out and is leading the Big Ten right now in the mile and the 3K.

It was great to see the team leaders to kind of get their teammates and get their coaches fired up, especially on a week like this heading into the Big Ten.

In terms of the Big Ten meet, certainly, it's all about points scoring. It's all about head-to-head competition. We're going to look to our people that perform throughout the entire season to step up to the plate and hopefully give us some big points. Obviously, in the shotput right now we've got, on the women's side, three women in the top 15 -- Kelsey Card, No. 1, Banke Oginni, No. 10 in the conference, and Kennedy Blahnik at No. 12.

In the weight throw, with Kelsey leading the conference with 69'7", and Banke is at No. 14. In the pentathlon, Georgia Ellenwood, No. 1. She's right now fifth in the nation. And Casie Pawlik is ranked No. 10 in the conference.

In the 5K, we have three in the top 15. Amy Davis, a freshman from Edgewood High School, our local lady. Michelle Lee is ranked 10th, and Gabi Anzalone. We certainly expect good performances out of the three ladies in the 5K.

Georgia is ranked fifth in the high jump. Emma Haugen, a freshman, ranked 16th in the pole vault. For those of you that were at meet on Friday, it was great to see Taylor Amann attempt the new school record, and she just missed it. She's currently ranked ninth on the Big Ten list, but certainly expecting some good performances out of Taylor. Also on the long jump, Georgia.

So it's just a matter of balancing out how we're going to utilize these women over the two days at the Big Ten Championships.

On the men's side, looking for big points from a whole bunch of guys. Lorenzo Larry in the 60 meters is currently ranked No. 2 in the conference at 6.9, 24th in the nation. It's great to add sprinting power to the team. Lorenzo is currently ranked fifth in the 200 meters. Coach Jackson did a great job of bringing Lorenzo here.

In the men's 800, Eric Brown, a freshman, is ranked No. 13. Obviously, Morgan McDonald, who's just set a new school record in the mile at 3:57.83, leads the conference in the mile and also the 3K at 7:52. Morgan's ninth in the nation. It's hard to believe there are eight other milers in the country right now that are faster than 3:57.83, but the mile on the national level has certainly blown up.

Austin Mudd, former school record holder in the mile, is currently ranked fourth, 4:01. Obviously, this is a year where Austin's coming back into the team. He's been absent for about 18 months due to injury and also a redshirt year. I'm sure he's looking to try to take back the school record from the Aussie. It will be interesting to see how those two clash over the next weekend.

In the 3K, Russell Sandvold is currently ranked sixth in the conference at 8:02. Zach Ziemek, obviously, again, a team leader, but currently ranked No. 1 in the heptathlon, and we have three other athletes ranked in the top 12. So looking for some big points out of the hep guys. Double Z is ranked second in the pole vault.

There's a variety of points for us to score, and hopefully this whole group is in the first group when you look at the broad range of events that we're covering. So we're excited about getting out there this weekend, getting after it, and hopefully score some big points.

Q. Mick, when you say the mile is blowing up, what does that mean?
COACH BYRNE: Right now, as I said, there's eight guys ahead of Morgan on the national list at 3:57.83, which is Morgan's time, but they're better than that. So I think there's seven guys or six guys right now under 3:57.50. It's gone to another level. Used to be, obviously, the four-minute mile was a big mark, exciting mark for collegians to hit. Now it's -- I think if you look at the total nationally, there's probably about 27, 28 kids under four minutes. So the new norm is 3:58.

Only a short few years ago, we had guys just dip under, Jack Bolas and a few other guys dip right under four minutes, and it was a big deal. Now they're a dime a dozen.

Q. Mick, did you see Kelsey Card coming here -- a couple of years ago, when she first came in here, did you see this type of potential in her?
COACH BYRNE: Me personally, I don't think so. I'm not a field event coach. You always listen to your coaching staff, but Coach Astrauskas certainly did. I know he had certainly convinced Coach Stintzi to redshirt her at a time when we probably needed her. So Dave Astrauskas certainly saw the potential.

She was highly ranked coming out of high school, but those first two years, it's a learning curve, a huge learning curve for the field events, and we found that out, obviously, with Michael Lihrman and guys like them. You block over the years in the field events. We've got some great young throwers right now. They just take a little bit more time. Like some of the distance guys, they take a little bit more time to develop. That was all on Coach Astrauskas, so great coaching job.

Q. How important is it this year having the Big Ten Indoor Meet streamed online for the first time in conference history?
COACH BYRNE: That's something that, at our fall coaches meeting for the last two years, we've been pushing. When you look at the other major conferences, they all have their meets streamed. It's huge for us. We felt as a coaching body that having the meet replayed two weeks after the meet when today the results are out there so quickly, it was senseless.

We're excited about this. We're excited to bring the meet to our fans. So, yes, it's a huge move on the part of the Big Ten. We're excited about it. The kids are going to love it. Hopefully, it doesn't take too much away from the attendance because we generally get a great attendance at the meet, particularly on the second day.

Q. Do you think Reed Connor will be a good analyst for BTN Plus?
COACH BYRNE: He's done a great job the last two seasons. Obviously, I'm partial because he's one of my former athletes. He's knowledgeable, and he brings a sense of excitement to the commentary box and enjoys doing it. So, yeah, he brings that energy, some great energy to the sport. Hopefully, it will come across on that. He's one of the main commentators for the live stream also.

Q. Talk about the relationship that Austin Mudd has with some of the younger runners. You touched on it earlier with Morgan breaking Mudd's old school record, but what's the relationship like?
COACH BYRNE: Obviously, Austin is fifth year. He's been through the mill. He's competed at a very high level and can obviously bring a lot to the table. He's a competitor. He's been out of the sport for nearly 18 months, and it's taken some time to get back. He's run 4:01, which is ranked fourth in the conference right now. Austin just has to keep the faith and stay focused. It's coming around.

I know, if you talk to him, he'd probably say it's not coming around fast enough, but when you're out of competition that long, it takes time to get your racing feet under you. He's a great training partner for Morgan, and I'm sure Morgan would say that, but they're two competitive athletes, and I know Austin would like to get his record back. Is it feasible this indoor season? I'm not sure. But certainly look for some great races between the two of them.

Once we go outdoors, over 1,500 meters, you have to add in the other young gun, the Big Ten Champion from outdoors freshman, Joe Hardy. Joe struggled a little bit during the December season, but I certainly wouldn't rule him out of the mile this weekend.

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