HEUSDEN, Belgium – After almost earning the IAAF World Championships qualifying standard in the 5000 meters a month ago, Wisconsin junior Morgan McDonald entered the Knight of Athletics meet in Belgium with one goal: to put himself in position to be selected to Team Australia for next month's world meet.
McDonald accomplished his goal and more Saturday, running the fastest time in by an undergraduate in UW history at 13 minutes, 15.83 seconds.
"It was by far the highest quality field that I've ever competed in, so I just wanted to get in the pack and be as competitive as I could," McDonald said. "To be able to run that quick while wearing Wisconsin across my chest makes it that much more special. I am so thankful for everything that the university and all the people there have done for me, I certainly would not be where I am today without them."
The distance ace finished 10th in the "A" race at the prestigious European competition at Stadium de Veen.
"It's very rewarding to see an athlete take full advantage of an amazing opportunity," UW Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Mick Byrne said. "He ran not only a massive personal best, but hit the IAAF qualifying standard. We are thrilled for Morgan as at the start of the year his best 5K was 13:29 and he's lowered his PR by 14 seconds.
"In my world, at the NCAA level, 13:15 is very out there, but wow, this is fun."
A native of Sydney, Australia, McDonald owns the second-fastest 5K time by an Australian this season and the sixth-fastest time ever in Australian history. He is in a prime spot to be selected to the Australian national team for the 2017 IAAF World Championships, as Athletics Australia will pick three athletes to represent the country in the 5000 meters.
McDonald will find out this weekend if he is selected to Team Australia, which will select from the four Australians who have run faster than the world standard of 13:22.60 this year.
"Back in February when Morgan was injured after winning the 3000 and 5000 meters at the Big Ten indoor meet, he was pretty devastated that he would have to miss the NCAA indoor meet," Byrne said. "At the time, we had to reevaluate the year. I felt that it was important to throw out London at this time and Morgan embraced the possibility.
"In hindsight, the injury actually recharged him. When Mother Nature derailed his NCAA outdoor plans at Big Tens, we had to once again refocus and it seemed like fate just kept pointing to London."
McDonald's record-breaking 5000 meters came 10 days after he broke his own school record in the mile at the Morton Games thanks to a time of 3:55.79.
Among UW athletes, only Chris Solinsky has run faster than McDonald in the 5000 meters. The 2017 UW Athletics Hall of Famer ran 13:12.88 at the 2007 Knight of Athletics meet, which happened following Solinsky's graduation from Wisconsin.