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Big day stakes Badgers to Big Ten lead

Posted-May 12, 2012 10:57 pm

MADISON, Wis. – Keepers of the Wisconsin men’s track and field history book were in need of a pencil and eraser on Saturday, after a number of Badgers scratched out old names and wrote themselves in.

Already ranked No. 6 all-time for UW in the decathlon, David Grzesiak moved himself up to No. 3 on the list with his performance at the 2012 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

Ten events and four personal-best performances later, the senior tallied 7,832 points to finish third in the multi-event competition.

More importantly the work of Grzesiak and his teammates kept the Badgers securely atop the team standings in the race for the Big Ten title.

It was representative of a day that saw Badgers step up left and right to help UW chase a team title on its home track.

Wisconsin ended the second day of competition with the team lead after recording a day-two total to 62 points. Indiana heads into the final day of competition in second place with 44 points, while Nebraska rounds out the top three at 42.5 points.

“Absolutely ecstatic,” Grzesiak said of the Badgers' day. “That's what I'm excited about, that everyone performed so incredibly well today.”

Nebraska’s Bjorn Barrefors won the decathlon with a total of 7,897 points, while Jack Szmanda of Minnesota finished runner-up with 7,862 points.

“I’m happy with nine performances out of 10,” Grzesiak said. “Any time you can say that as a decathlete, it’s been a good meet.”

But, there are many would say it was more than just “a good meet” for the Brookfield, Wis., native.

Grzesiak came just short of the Olympic trials ‘A’ standard of 7,900 points with his performance, yet still likely secured himself a spot in the trials in Eugene, Ore., this summer.

With their decathlon point totals, Barrefors, Szmanda and Grzesiak each broke the facility and Big Ten championships record of 7,829 set by Paul Terek of Michigan State in 2002, the last time UW hosted the meet.

Putting the final touches on his UW career in his final home meet, Grzesiak also all but assured himself another trip to the upcoming NCAA championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

He won’t be making the trip alone, though.

Teammate Derek Steinbach finished fourth in the event with 7,739 points, which secured the No. 5 spot on UW’s all-time list and moved him into the top 10 nationally.

“Derek was out of his mind today,” Grzesiak said. “(He) managed to most likely put himself into nationals, which is awesome.”

Both Grzesiak and Steinbach all but assured themselves trips to the upcoming national meet, and will likely also be joined by teammate Japheth Cato, who recorded a score of 7,616 earlier in the season at the Mt. SAC Relays Combined Events.

“We're going to have three guys there,” Grzesiak said. “Not many schools can say that they'll have three guys at nationals in a single event.”

While the performances of the two Badgers set them up for future endeavors, they certainly helped out in the present as well, earning Wisconsin valuable team points.

Ian Jansen also earned himself an eighth-place finish with his total of 7,165 points -- closing out his Badgers career as a Big Ten scorer.

Bringing contributions of his own in the form of another all-time performance, Dan Block also played a role in maintaining UW’s team lead.

Competing in his second conference championships, Block showed he had learned plenty from last season’s fifth-place Big Ten finish.

"Last year I put too much pressure on myself,” Block said. “I just freaked out."

A year later, he come out on top in one of the best discus competitions in meet history. The Hanover Park, Ill., native pulled out a school-record effort of 195 feet, 8 inches to earn his first Big Ten title.

"This year, I realized I belong here,” Block said. “I came in ranked fifth, so there was a little pressure on me, but it made [the win] extra sweet.”

It was a sweet day for Japheth Cato as well, as he also rewrote the UW history books with a personal-best performance in the long jump.

On his first attempt, the sophomore leaped 25-1 3/4 to finish fourth in the event.

Cato entered the meet ranked No. 7 on UW’s all-time list, but ended his day having moved up to No. 4, passing Brad Mayo’s mark of 25-1 1/4 set back in 1988.

In the high jump, Paul Annear and Collin Taylor picked up more points for UW.

Annear finished in seventh place and earned two points by tying his personal-best mark of 6-11, while Taylor came in eighth with the same mark, earning one point.

Eight other Badgers qualified for Sunday's finals, many recording personal-best marks in the process.

Patrick Plank smashed his previous best mark, clocking in at 51.14 seconds to qualify and finish second in a preliminary section of the 400-meter hurdles.

In the trials of the 1500 meters, Reed Connor had another top time for UW by finishing in a time of 3 minutes, 47.55 seconds to finish second and qualify.

Rob Finnerty also ran in the event, qualifying and finishing fourth with his time of 3:44.20.

Kyle Jefferson ensured he will run another day in his last meet on the Dan McClimon track.

The senior finished seventh and qualified in the 400 meters prelims with a season-best time of 47.03, while also ensuring himself a lane in Sunday’s finals of the 200 meters with a personal-best time of 20.87 seconds and eighth-place finish.

Combining the momentum from their individual efforts, Plank, Cato and Jefferson joined Brady Hammon in a season-best finish of 40.36 in the 4x100-meter relay to place sixth and qualify for Sunday's final.

Garret Payne also ran to a personal-best time in the 400 meters, finishing sixth in 47.03 seconds and moving on.

Freshman Austin Mudd will compete for his first conference title in the 800 meters after he finished fifth and qualified in the trials of the event with a time of 1:48.35.

Beginning at 11 a.m. (CT) tomorrow, the Badgers look to close things out in pursuit of their first Big Ten outdoor title since 2007.


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