UW cross country teams experience mixed results in Nuttycombe Invitational

Wisconsin's women's cross country team achieved far greater success Friday afternoon then the men's team did. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

In the past few years, the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational has established itself as the most competitive regular season meet in collegiate cross country and this year’s edition — with 20 of 30 ranked teams in the men’s race and 16 of 30 on the women’s side — was no different.

The meet, which serves as a proving ground for any would-be National Championship contenders, also marked the first opportunity for the Badgers to take on a top-caliber field with a full team. While the men and women both delivered some encouraging performances, each team left the weekend with drastically different outlooks for the remainder of the season.

The women’s team entered the race ranked 17th in the country, ninth-best in the Nuttycombe field, and through the beginning of the race it appeared that they were set to exceed that projection substantially. Lead by a top-25 trio of sophomores Alicia Monson and Amy Davis and senior Sarah Disanza, the Badgers sat in third place after four kilometers of the six kilometer race.

“It was our goal today to really just get out and practice [running as a team],” Monson said.

“We really did a good job of hanging together, especially me, Sarah [Disanza] and Amy [Davis] through the first 4k.”

The next two kilometers would not treat the Badgers as well as the previous four and only Monson, who finished 20th, would hold onto her position. Davis was next for Wisconsin in 47th place, followed by junior Shaelyn Sorensen and sophomore Alissa Niggemann.

That was when the drama emerged, as runners streamed across the finish line and Disanza, who had tied up within sight of the finish line, appeared unable to continue. Without a fifth scorer the Badgers’ result looked to be slipping away, but Disanza was able to find something left as she staggered across the finish line in 94th to seal a top-10 finish for UW. It was a gutsy performance from the senior that drew effusive praise from head coach Mick Byrne.

“God bless that kid, she gives you everything she's got, she doesn't leave anything out there,” Byrne said of Disanza. “One hundred meters from the finish, I didn't even think she was going to get across that line … I don't know if you can ask these kids for anything more. These women did a great job.”

The Badgers were the best of the four Big Ten teams in the race and showed they could run with some of the best teams in the nation for four kilometers, a crucial confidence boost as the team heads into the postseason.

“The Big Tens, Regionals and Nationals are really our goal meets of the season so we're just kind of using our experiences of races this season to really ramp us up for when it counts.”

While the women came out of the weekend with momentum, the men’s team emerged with more questions than answers after a disappointing 25th-place finish. Shortly before the race it was announced that superstar senior Morgan McDonald would be redshirting his cross country season as he recovered from competing at the World Championships, and in his absence the Badgers struggled.

Wisconsin was lead by senior Joe Hardy, who ran well to finish 25th, but the rest of the team struggled to support his performance. Sophomore Ben Eidenschink finished 90th in his first race of the season, while sophomore Oliver Hoare, who finished eighth at the Louisville Classic, only managed a 114th place finish.

“Joe did all he could; he put it all out there today. [Oliver Hoare] struggled. Two weeks ago he was the star and now he's fallen off the pedestal and he's going to have to rebound from that,” Byrne said. It's disappointing that we didn't have a fourth and fifth guy to back those guys up who put it all out there on the line today.”

Without McDonald, the Badgers have struggled with consistency and are in danger of failing to qualify for the national championships for just the second time in 30 years. Wisconsin was just fifth of seven Big Ten teams in Friday’s race and look far from the form that carried them to wins at the Big Ten championships and Great Lakes regional last season.

“We've got two weeks to fix it before the Big Ten championships, and we're still gonna go to regionals, we're still gonna run regionals,” Byrne said. “We can sit back and wallow in self-pity and we're not going to do that; that's not the Badger way.”

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