Men's Track and Field coach Ed Nuttycombe says his squad is as healthy as it has been all year, a prospect that only adds to the excitement of this weekend's Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. Over 20,000 people are expected to be on hand for the event this weekend, which Nuttycombe calls one of the three or four premier relay carnivals in the country each year.""
""It's a pretty elite meet as far as how many people you can get into the open events, and we've got quite a few in,"" he said. ""I think they'll compete very well and hopefully come up with some of their better marks of the year.""
The next three weeks of outdoor competition are very important for the team as the regular season comes to a close and championship events draw closer. Late in the season, health is a key factor, and Nuttycombe says that his team has avoided injuries throughout most of the season. Although the Badgers are a young team, they have shown improvement and continue to add NCAA Regional qualifiers as the schedule progresses, including last weekend at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., where six more Wisconsin runners posted qualifying times.
Nuttycombe had high praise for two student athletes in particular, sophomore hurdler Nate Larkin and freshman pole vaulter Mickey DeFilippo.
Larkin, who qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 60m hurdles as one of only fourteen hurdlers in the country, posted a personal best time of 14.12 seconds in the 110m hurdles on April 4, at the Jim Clark Shootout in Tucson, Ariz.
He said that Larkin's progress ""has been steady, not big leaps and bounds, and I think he's ready to join a small group of athletes at the UW that have run under 14 seconds in the hurdles.""
DeFilippo is also poised to put himself in elite company at Wisconsin after becoming just the eighth pole vaulter in school history to clear 17 feet, which he achieved at the VS Athletes Beach Invitational in Norwalk, Calif. DeFilippo has met or exceeded the NCAA Regional qualifying height of 16 feet, 6 inches (5.05m) in every outdoor event he has entered this fall.
Nuttycombe likes the team's chances as it moves toward the most competitive part of the season, saying, ""this will be a big step for us because we'll run some distance relays that should fare very well and be very competitive, and [it will] be fun to see what happens.