first_imgComing off two dominating first-place finishes at both the Big Ten Championships and the Great Lakes Regional, the No. 1 UW men’s cross country team looks to end its three-year run as runner-up and win the title for the first time in 20 years when it races Monday in Terre Haute, Ind.Led by senior Simon Bairu, last year’s national champion and three-time Big Ten title winner, the Badgers are desperate for a national title.”I think the team as a whole is incredibly hungry for this championship,” junior Chris Solinsky said. “I think I speak for everyone on the team saying that we’re going to do whatever we can to get the job done and go in there with the right mindset to hopefully accomplish our main goal, which is to win the title.”Winning it all will be no small task, even for these Big Ten-record-setting Badgers. There are several teams with a legitimate shot at the championship — Arkansas, defending champion Colorado, Arizona and Notre Dame, among others, could all make bids to keep the Badgers from the title.”There’s always a handful of teams that will be vying for that national title,” head coach Jerry Schumacher said. “I think right now, when you look at it, Colorado, the defending national champion, looks very, very strong. Arkansas looks outstanding. The University of Arizona looks to be very, very good.And then there will be another team that will surprise us and really run well that day that’ll be in the mix up there. There’s a handful of teams that can win, and it’s really going to come down to who manages the day the best and who gets the job done that day.”Arkansas, with talent and experience similar to Wisconsin’s, has one of the best chances of beating out the Badgers for the title Monday.Leading the Razorbacks’ contingent are senior Josphat Boit, third-place finisher at the regional championship, who was selected SEC Athlete of the Year; senior Josh Robles; and second-place finisher, junior Peter Kosgei.The Razorbacks went undefeated in seven meets this year en route to claiming their 32nd consecutive SEC cross-country title and 16th consecutive South Central Regional championship.The defending champion Buffaloes take a team to Terre Haute that swept its regional meet last weekend and has won a team or individual NCAA title in each of the past five years, including an individual win in 2002 by Jorge Torres and last year’s championship, both of which took place on the same course in Terre Haute.”Colorado ran a great race last year and their patience paid big dividends at the end of the day,” Schumacher said.Running for the Buffaloes is one-two punch senior Bret Schoolmester and junior Billy Nelson, along with seniors Austin Baille and Payton Batliner and sophomores Stephen Pifer, Pete Janson and James Strang.For No. 4 Arizona, junior Robert Cheseret leads the charge, searching for the trifecta after winning the conference and regional titles. Finishing behind Cheseret in both the Pac-10 Championships and Western Regional, Obed Mutanya is one of the other six runners competing for the Wildcats Monday.Paving the way for Stanford’s contingent of runners is junior Neftalem Aria and senior Brett Gotcher.Notre Dame looks to end on a strong note after a disappointing 11th-place finish last year, sending Kurt Benninger — who has emerged as a legitimate national title contender — and seniors Sean O’Donnell, Tim Moore and Kaleb Van Ort.Despite facing competitive teams, possible unfavorable weather conditions and three consecutive runner-up finishes, Solinsky and company have stepped it up and are ready to go, confident that they can in fact reach the next level.”We will try to put together the best strategy that will allow us to compete at the highest level on Monday,” Schumacher said. “I think we are going to be a contending team, and I know the guys are really excited and I’m excited, and I think we’re ready to go down there and see what happens.”Though no guarantee, many believe Wisconsin is a heavy favorite to bring home the title.”Not to put too much pressure on Jerry, but really, you don’t ever want to say they’re a lock, but I can say it,” women’s cross country coach Jim Stintzi said. “You can quote me on that.”last_img