Friday, October 14, 2016

Awesome Aussie: McDonald takes third at Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational

Morgan McDonald
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Men's Cross Country | |

Awesome Aussie: McDonald takes third at Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational

Junior shines at home meet to lead Badgers to 11th-place showing

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Team Results
1.Northern Arizona78
2.Stanford    118
Individual Results
1.Justyn KnightSyracuse23:53.1
2.Futsum ZienasellassieNorthern Arizona23:55.1
3.Morgan McDonaldWisconsin23:55.4
4.Grant FisherStanford23:55.5
5.George ParsonsNorth Carolina State23:56.5
60.Olin HackerWisconsin24:41.9
77.Joe HardyWisconsin24:51.9
81.Benjamin EidenschinkWisconsin24:52.7
92.Russell SandvoldWisconsin24:56.7
MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin junior Morgan McDonald is well-known for his ability on the track, winning a Big Ten title last winter in the 3000 meters and earning first-team All-America honors in the outdoor 5000 meters last June.

McDonald showed that he's also a force to be reckoned with on the cross country course on Friday as the Sydney, Australia, native claimed third at the 2016 Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational Presented by Under Armour on Friday at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course.

The junior finished with a time of 23 minutes, 55.4 seconds after making a late surge on the homestretch to propel himself into the top three. McDonald led the No. 16 Badgers to an 11th place finish against the talented field that included 19 ranked teams from the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Poll.

"It feels amazing, I feel like I haven't really been this accomplished in a big cross country race like this before," McDonald said. "It means a lot to me, and you know it looks really good the rest of the season if I keep going up."

Justyn Knight of Syracuse won the individual title with a time of 23:53.1, just ahead of Northern Arizona's Futsum Zienasellassie, who clocked in at 23:55.1. Zienasellassie helped No. 1 Northern Arizona capture the men's team title with 78 points, 40 ahead of second-place finisher Stanford.

"This is awesome, if you're into cross country, this is where it's at. Look at the crowd out here today," UW Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Mick Byrne said. "When you look at the teams and look at the ranked teams that were here, and how competitive both races were, this was a great day for our sport."

For the Badgers, freshman Olin Hacker took 60th with a time of 24:41.9 coming across the finish line. Following Hacker was junior Joe Hardy (24:51.9) and freshman Ben Eidenschink (24:52.7), taking 77th and 81st respectively.

Senior Russell Sandvold followed up his Badger Classic victory with a fifth-place finish for UW, taking 92nd overall with a time of 24:56.7.

McDonald started the eight-kilometer race near the front of the pack, but was sitting outside of the top 10 until the mid-way point of the competition.

"Morgan made a mistake and he went out too slow," Byrne said. "When the big guns up front were just relaxing after one mile, Morgan was working hard just to get back into that race. But he'll learn from that, but that was a big statement for him to come out in that type of field and I think he's going to get a lot of confidence from it."

McDonald made his big push around the six-kilometer marker of the race, edging into the top five with Knight, Zienasellassie, Stanford's Grant Fisher and North Carolina State's George Parsons, who was the leader of the race for most of the afternoon.

"I just tried to be there when the move was made and just stick on the back of the front pack and to be able to respond and have a good finish," McDonald said.

Once the runners began their dash to the finish line, McDonald reared back for his final kick and passed two others to earn a third-place result.

"You just get that second wind down the final straight," McDonald said. "There was such a good crowd and you just know that you are doing it for them and you are doing it for your team and it really pulled me through to finish pretty strong at the end there."

Individually, Fisher wound up with a fourth-place finish while Parsons placed fifth. Knight added to his prestigious collegiate accolades with the victory, as the junior earned All-America honors in 2015 to go along with his No. 4 individual ranking in the Saucony Flo50 Men's National Poll.

"There were a lot of major players that are going to be around in November out here today," Byrne said. "Both races were awesome. To see those top individuals getting after it like that, it's exciting, it's great for our sport."

Zienasellassie, who came in ranked No. 3 in the individual poll, and teammates Matthew Baxter, Tyler Day and Cory Glines all finished in the top 20 to give Northern Arizona its third team win of the year in as many meets. Stanford took second with Fisher and Sean McGorty each earning top-10 finishes to give the Cardinal 118 points.

BYU took third place with 144 points, followed by last year's champion, Syracuse. The No. 2 Orange finished with 167 points. Rounding out the top five was Iona with 240 points, including a pair of runners in the top 15.

"We were solid, we obviously wanted to be in that top 10," Byrne said. "There were a couple of schools that were right ahead of us that I think are going to be big players down the road when it comes to at-large points, and we missed an opportunity. But you have to grow from this, you have to learn from this."

"I said to the guys the other night, look, on Monday morning the race is over, we are going to turn the page. We have to prepare now for the Big Tens."

The Badgers will travel back to the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Minnesota for the 2016 Big Ten Cross Country Championship on Oct. 30. Wisconsin won the Oz Memorial Invitational earlier this year at the course, and will look to win the Big Ten for the 16th time in the last 18 years. The men's eight-kilometer race will begin at 11 a.m. following the women's six-kilometer race at 10 a.m.

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