UW MXC: One-two punch leads Badgers to Great Lakes crown

MADISON, Wis. – The 2016 Wisconsin men’s cross country season began with Morgan McDonald and Malachy Schrobilgen leading the Badgers to victory with a one-two finish at the Oz Memorial in early September.

The Wisconsin pair did it again on Friday afternoon at the 2016 NCAA Great Lakes Regional to lead the No. 14 Badgers to the team title and a berth into the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championship next Saturday.

Schrobilgen, a senior competing in his last race at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course, took home the individual title with a time of 30 minutes, 22.2 seconds, finishing just one-hundredth of a second in front of McDonald.

“It’s really special,” Schrobilgen said. “You realize how much you appreciate your time here and appreciate everything the coaches and your teammates do for you. I didn’t want to take it easy today. I wanted to run well and run well for my team.”

The two upperclassmen started off the regional meet in the front of the pack and never let up, maintaining prime positions throughout the entirety of the race. Around the seven-kilometer mark, Schrobilgen and McDonald distanced themselves from the rest of the pack on the way to the top-two finish while bringing the regional crown back to Madison for the 30th time in 45 years.

“You go through a lot of different ways the race can play out in your head,” McDonald said. “Obviously you think of the best-case scenarios and finishing one-two with your teammate? It doesn’t get much better than that.”

McDonald finished just behind Schrobilgen at 30:22.2, earning his fourth top-three finish this year. The junior ran another magnificent race after winning the Big Ten individual crown in Minneapolis on Oct. 30, leading the school to its record 48th Big Ten title.

“It was fun and it was a lot easier to be honest, just to know you have your teammate right there supporting you, keeping you going the whole way,” McDonald said. “He’s a guy I run with every day. I do all my training sessions with him, we know how to work together, push each other and it just made it really fun the whole time.”

“I kind of looked over at Morgan coming down the finish line, and just gave him a fist bump,” Schrobilgen said. “It was pretty fun to do that on the home course.”

Wisconsin dominated the meet, finishing with 51 points, marking a 30-point gap between UW and second-place Michigan State. After missing out on the NCAA championship for the first time since 1972 last season, the Badgers have waited a full year to get back to this spot.

“A lot of people are calling it the season of redemption, and every single one of us takes that personally,” Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Mick Byrne said. “They came out here with a little bit of that vengeance. I don’t know if we want to call it the season of redemption but it feels really good right now.”

Alongside Schrobilgen and McDonald, junior Joe Hardy and freshman Olin Hacker stayed in the front group for most of the race. Hacker finished as the third Badger to cross the line in 30:34.7, coming in 12th overall. Hardy maintained his great start with a strong finish, earning 15th with the time of 30:42.2.

The fifth scorer for Wisconsin was freshman Benjamin Eidenschink, finishing with a time of 31:02.7. All five of the Badgers earned a spot on the All-Region team.

“We feel amazing,” McDonald said. “Our team has a massive high, and that’s what you want coming into a big meet like nationals. It’s such a mental battle having that advantage, coming off two victories. We feel amazing, I don’t think we could come in with much of a better spot than this.”

With the win at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, the Badgers punched their ticket to Terre Haute, Indiana, for the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championship on Nov. 19. Michigan State also automatically advanced, winning a tiebreak over Indiana as both teams finished with 81 points.

The Badgers found an advantage in competing at their home course, with each team racing 10-kilometers for the first time all season. Although the race was hotly contested for the first six-kilometers, McDonald and Schrobilgen began pulling away after the third lap around the course.

“Obviously, this is somewhere we train twice a week and we are very familiar with it,” Byrne said. “We talk about it all the time. The course is in absolute amazing shape right now.”

“It was a great run, just a super run. The sun’s out, it’s the 11th of November, it’s a great day.

Wisconsin won the NCAA Great Lakes Regional for the 30th time in program history and the 14th time since 2000. After coming up short in both the Big Ten championship and the regional meet last year, UW is determined to continue its pursuit of a national championship on Nov. 19.

“Last year was hard. We’ve talked about that all year. That’s what has really motivated us this year,” Schrobilgen said. “But I’m very grateful and very lucky just to have an amazing group of teammates and amazing coaches and family and friends who have always been supportive of me. You know I can’t do it without them so it’s nice to be able to kind of get back a little bit and have a race like this.

“We aren’t done yet.”