first_imgAfter a disappointing eighth-place team finish in 2005, the UW women’s track team had one main goal in mind — move up the rankings in front of a supportive home crowd.True, a conference title was never much more than a dream in the difficult Big Ten. The Badgers, however, were able to accomplish their main objective via consistent success and a few individual standouts.Wisconsin took fifth place at the women’s Big Ten track and field indoor championships at the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center, despite boasting only one individual winner over a span of 18 events.Melissa Talbot started the Badgers off with a bang on the first day. The senior captain opened the meet by winning the 60-meter hurdles event of the pentathlon with an 8.56 second performance but wasn’t able to come through in the other four events — high jump, shot put, long jump, and 800-meter run — to defeat her former high school nemesis, Liz Roehrig of Minnesota.Talbot set a personal-best in the pentathlon with 3,950 points, but her mark was only good for a third-place tie, as Roehrig went on to win the event.However, Saturday’s star performance for Wisconsin came from pole vaulter Blair Luethmers.Heading into the meet, Luethmers was worried over the fact that she had to vault first, a position she really isn’t comfortable with as she is then forced to set the standards for herself and the other 19 participants.Warm-ups didn’t help her anxiety, either, as she felt she was rather sub-par with her run-throughs.”My warm-ups today weren’t the greatest,” she said. “I just had to pull it together, I was questioning myself.”But in the end, it was Luethmers who was leading the way in the pole-vault event — and it wasn’t only because she was first, either.Luethmers hit all of her jumps en route to taking first in the pole vault — Wisconsin’s only individual title of the weekend — with a jump of 4.01m (13 feet, 1 inch), an NCAA provisional qualifying mark and also tying the Big Ten Indoor Championship record.”It was nice making everything on the first jump,” Luethmers said. “It just took a lot of focusing, made sure I was, and, most importantly, just made the height.”Luethmers was a head above her competition — both literally and metaphorically — as the closest to even her threaten her mark was Andrea Smith of Minnesota at 3.86m (12 feet, 8 inches).In fact, the only jump Luethmers missed on the day was her very last when she went for the NCAA qualifying mark of 4.10m (13 feet, 5 inches) after she had already wrapped up the title and no one else was competing against her.”I think [I missed because] more of the overwhelming excitement of being the champ,” she said. “I wish I would’ve been able to put it together for 13 feet, 5 inches, but I’ll just have to look forward to outdoor.”Luethmers’ effort not only gave Wisconsin’s second-year head coach Jim Stintzi his first indoor champion at UW, it led the way to a surprising third-place standing for his team after the first day.With only the Golden Gophers and Wolverines out in front, the Badgers entered Sunday with 32.5 points, giving them a somewhat comfortable 5.5 point lead over fourth-place Purdue. To put that in perspective, last year’s eighth-place Wisconsin team put together 50 points throughout the weekend, so Stintzi was well-aware his second attempt at the Big Tens was going to surpass his first.”We did lose some seniors last year who scored for us, and while we did get some help from our freshmen, our [returning athletes] stepped up, so I think we’re making progress,” Stintzi said. “We’re going in the right direction.”Even though the Badgers were knocked down a couple of places in the team standings during Sunday’s final events, there were a few impressive individual results. Shuntia Lucas took second place in the 60-meter dash (7.45 seconds) and third in the 200-meter (24.11).”I just wanted to come out and have a good day, and that’s what I did,” Lucas said. “I was excited last year, and my debut at Nationals was kind of rocky, so [I was excited to] just come back this year and really push forward to get to Nationals. I’m aiming to make my mark there.”In the 5,000-meter final run, the Badgers produced a pair of NCAA provisional qualifiers. Finishing fourth behind a trio of Michigan runners was Katrina Rundhaug, with a time of 16:15.03. Maggie Grabow followed close behind at 16:39.83, good for an eighth-place result.”Ours was probably the toughest 5k conference this year, because last year, I think the winning time was 16:33, and this year, it was almost 35 seconds faster,” Rundhaug said. “I was happy with it, it was my second-best time ever. I definitely would have liked to be on the podium, but I guess I have one more try for that next year.”After cracking the top five in the conference with a grand total of 71 points, Stintzi reiterated the points he made before the weekend about how competing in their own city and their own facilities helped the Badgers to find higher levels of success in the 2006 meet.”I do think it makes a big difference. I think … Wisconsin has great track and field fans, and they’re knowledgeable,” Stintzi said. “The athletes want to do well in front of the home crowd, and I think it really did help us.”last_img