Both the USC women’s and men’s team’s placed second in the 2015 Pac-12 Track & Field Championships, securing 13 event titles at the meet hosted by UCLA in Westwood, California, last Sunday.Among some of the greatest accomplishments was that of junior Andre De Grasse, who was named the Pac-12’s Men’s Athlete of the Meet after winning the 100m, 200m and being part of the winning 4x100m relay.“I just go out there and focus, run my race,” De Grasse said. “Just focus on me, don’t worry about anybody else. I wasn’t worried about breaking any records. Just worried about lowering my time, beating myself.”De Grasse broke the former 100m USC record by .6 seconds and the conference meet record that was currently held by UCLA’s Ato Bolden since 1996.“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” De Grasse said. “I feel like I still ran 10.00 or 10.01. So I’m just kind of soaking it in right now.”Freshman Deanna Hill, freshman Ky Westbrook, junior Alexis Faulknor and redshirt junior Tynia Gaither broke the meet record for the 4 x 100m relay that was set last season by USC. Their winning time of 43.10 beat last season’s record by more than 10 points and ranked them third all-time as a Pac-12 squad.Freshman Dior Hall came back with a win in the 100m, finishing with a time of 12.99 and, along with senior Melia Cox’s third place time of 13.48 and sophomore Amelie Iuel’s seventh place time of 14.11, helped earn 18 points for USC and narrowed Oregon’s lead to 109-69.“I knew Sasha [Wallace] was ahead of me,” Hall said. “I knew how high I needed to score in order for us to try and win Pac-12s, so I just knew that if I got her at the last hurdle and outrace her to the finish line, then hopefully, I’ll beat her.”USC also dominated the 400m race, with senior Vanessa Jones placing first with a new personal record of 51.50, which advanced her to second place on the USC all-time list in the event and eighth of all-time by a Pac-12 runner.“I knew it was destined for me,” Jones said. “It was just across town, all my family was here, I’ve been working hard and I knew I was going to come out with the win.”Jones became only the second USC woman to win the Pac-12 400m title, along with Gervaise McCraw, who achieved the title in 1987 at the first Pac-12 event.Along with freshman Kendall Ellis, who placed fifth with a score of 52.88, Akawkaw Ncha-Ndip placed sixth with a score of 53.00 and Cameron Pettigrew placed seventh at 53.28, the Trojan women earned 19 points, narrowing the score against Oregon to 133-94.The Women of Troy also commanded the 100m dash, placing second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the race. Gaither led the pack with a PR of 11.27 putting her into ninth place on USC’s all-time list. Westbrook took third with a time of 11.36, displacing Faulknor on the all-time list, who placed fourth. Hill and sophomore Destiny Brown placed fifth and sixth respectively, earning 26 points for USC.In addition to the 100m dash, the Trojan women took first and second in the 400m IH race. Junior Jaide Stepter won the event for the second consecutive time with a score of 55.85, making her the second woman ever to win the event more than once.“I’m just so excited because we’ve been training for this, I’ve been praying for it since we started practice in September,” Stepter said. “It’s just so exciting to be able to do it and be able to repeat a Pac-12 title, it’s so amazing. And being able to have my teammate as my biggest competition is such a privilege for both of us to be able to have the pressure on each other every day at practice.”Iuel took second place in the event, with a time of 56.06 and an earned 18 points between the two women. This cut Oregon’s lead to 163-138.The 200m races further narrowed Oregon’s lead for the women’s team. The Trojan women had seven runners reach the final line with Gaither winning first place with a time of 22.97. Faulknor was second with a time of 23.08 and Hill close behind with a score of 23.14. Jones, Cantrell, Westbrook and Brown were 4th through 7th respectively, earning 34 points for the team.“We had quite a few personal bests and just about everyone in our team scored points. When you face a dominant team like Oregon there is no room for mistakes and we fell shy in a few areas that cost us the championship,” USC Director of Track & Field Caryl Smith Gilbert said. “We had finals and graduation last week so now its time to rest and train for the NCAA Championships in two weeks.”The Trojans will compete again at the 2015 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in Austin, Texas from May 28-30.
It’s often said in sports like football and basketball that it’s difficult to defeat the same opponent three times in a season. Well forget about three times, because Wisconsin (31-3-2) will look to knock off the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (20-13-1) Friday for the fifth time in five tries this season.The Badgers fifth attempt at defeating the Bulldogs will likely be their toughest yet, as it comes in the WCHA Final Face-Off. UMD finds itself fighting for survival, as it most likely won’t be participating in next weekend’s NCAA tournament.“[Duluth is] a really good team, and they know how to win,” senior forward Brooke Ammerman said. “I mean, they’ve come on as of late, and they’re playing in their own rink, and they’re playing for more than just the WCHA tournament. They’re playing probably for an NCAA [tournament] bid. So there’s a lot on the line, so it should be a good game.”Only four teams remain – Wisconsin, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota – in the WCHA playoffs. Although it’s only a conference tournament, the WCHA playoffs are arguably tougher than many of the lingering NCAA tournament games. For proof of the conference’s superiority, simply take a look at past NCAA women’s hockey champions, as every one has come from the WCHA (Wisconsin, Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth).“The toughest game to win is the [semifinal] game,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “So if you’re lucky enough to play deep into this weekend, that’s going to help you prepare for the following weekend. And then get yourself in a position where you’re healthy, and got everyone going, playing a high level. And if you look at history, that’s helped all the teams that have had that opportunity.”The Badgers’ semifinal game will take place in Duluth, giving the Bulldogs a clear home ice advantage. The entire Final Face-Off weekend also features single elimination games, making for high intensity matchups between conference rivals.“It sort of gives you this rehearsal of what it’s going to be like next weekend,” Johnson said. “Only next weekend, you lose and your season’s over.”For seniors such as Hilary Knight, the idea of single elimination is accompanied by mixed emotions.“Certain teams are known for their postseason play, and I think Duluth is one of them,” Knight said. “Anything can happen in the playoffs, and I think that’s scary but also exciting at the same time.”Duluth isn’t the only team with much at stake this weekend, as Wisconsin will fight to make its claim for the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Badgers were the top-ranked team in the nation through the duration of the season and show no signs of surrendering that title now.Johnson and his players realize the benefits that come with a top seed in the NCAA tournament, including the luxury of playing inside the friendly confines of the Kohl Center – a place where the Badgers lost only twice all season.“You want to host that first quarterfinal [NCAA] game if you can, playing in your surroundings and not having to travel,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the things that can maybe make a difference, and you have control of, and so that’s what makes it important.”Johnson is confident in his team after it reeled off two dominating performances in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. The Badgers beat Minnesota State by a combined 11-0 score, equipping them with plenty of momentum as they head for Duluth.“We’re in a pretty good position right now,” Johnson said. “So it’s a good opportunity to go up there and be challenged by a quality opponent in their yard and find out what we can do.”
Three quarters of brutal play left the University of Wisconsin football team in perilous territory against Georgia State University Saturday.With just under six minutes to play in the third quarter, the No. 9 Badgers held a slim 6-3 lead after the Panthers put their first points on the board, courtesy of a 45-yard field goal from kicker Rogier ten Lohuis. It wasn’t until one redshirt quarterback Alex Hornibrook trotted on to the field that the Wisconsin offense finally showed signs of life.The move was unexpected, considering UW starting quarterback Bart Houston’s performance was not exactly terrible. The fifth-year senior Houston threw 10-18 for 91 yards with no touchdowns — not a poor performance, or not so horrible that it would warrant a third-quarter replacement.Football: Third-down success on both sides of ball key for No. 9 Wisconsin moving forwardIt’s no secret that third down is the most important down in football. Usually, the team that converts the majority Read…So when Hornibrook subbed in for the lackluster Houston, it didn’t cause any immediate relief for Wisconsin fans. At least not until Hornibrook’s first pass.Complete for 29 yards, Hornibrook’s beautiful spiral to a streaking Jazz Peavy drew a healthy roar from a previously silent crowd at Camp Randall. The pass gave hope to a nervous sea of red, one frantically coping with the possibility of a major upset. Hornibrook then followed up the Badgers’ first pass for over 20 yards since the first quarter in the only way he knows how.The redshirt freshman dropped back and slung a 19-yard pass to George Rushing down to the Georgia State 21-yard line. Wisconsin was finally knocking on the door and ready to score its first touchdown, which came two plays later on a Dare Ogunbowale rush.“I was hoping just that [putting Hornibrook in would cause a spark],” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said. “It gave us a little something, and it wasn’t even Bart’s fault why were [in that situation] … I like the way [Hornibrook] has been preparing.”Football: Wisconsin’s win over Akron highlights a matured freshmen wide receiving coreA.J. Taylor left Camp Randall Stadium after practice this week, he noticed his bicycle had been towed. He began to Read…Despite being picked off on the next drive when Rushing tipped the pass into the hands of the Panthers defense, Hornibrook was as poised as ever, even with Georgia State now holding a 17-13 lead from touchdowns on consecutive drives.He slung an 11-yard pass to favored target Rob Wheelwright, and when the Badgers were in desperate need of something big, Hornibrook delivered a 29-yard, arcing pass to tight-end Kyle Penniston to put the Badgers in the red zone.Five plays later, his next pass went right back to Penniston — a one-yard play action pass for the score on third down. The Badgers had the 20-17 lead they so desired and added a Rafa Gaglianone field goal to it later to seal the win.“There was a lot of small mistakes we made,” Hornibrook said. “Aside from that one interception, or converting on a few third downs, I think a big thing we need to work on is scoring touchdowns and not just settling on field goals.”It wasn’t pretty, but Wisconsin got the win. An unsightly victory like this begs questions about the Badgers, but none more important than who should be UW’s starting quarterback.Why is it that the second Hornibrook came in that Wisconsin’s offense finally opened up? Houston did not play poorly. Was it merely that the Badgers finally woke up midway through the third quarter? Does Hornibrook being in the huddle actually make a difference?“No,” Ogunbowale said when asked if there was a difference in the huddle between the two quarterbacks. “They’re both commanding quarterbacks, both have a lot of confidence.”From an outsider’s perspective, there’s no way of knowing what’s on the minds of players on the field when Hornibrook is taking snaps compared to Houston. In the stands, however, it was evident that at least today the team seemed to gain energy from Hornibrook’s presence.Football: Rafael Gaglianone opens up about tragic loss of friend, Nebraska punter Sam FoltzAll he had to do was get the ball in the air and the angel on his shoulder would take Read…Going into next weekend, a marquee matchup against Michigan State that is one of the biggest games Wisconsin has faced over the past few years.The Badgers announced ahead of it that Hornibrook will in fact be the starter, so whether the spark against Georgia State was a coincidence or a true facet to his play is yet to be seen.What has been seen though, is what Hornibrook can do in a game. Chryst has been happy with his young quarterback’s performance, but now thrust into the one of Wisconsin’s biggest games of the past few seasons for his first career start there’s one thing Hornibrook has that separates him.“I’ve been impressed [with Hornibrook],” Chryst said. “I think [poise is] one of his characteristics that stuck out to me.”Perhaps all it takes to deliver the big plays Hornibrook has, is a little poise. If he continues that trend, following Saturday’s game we could be starting the Alex Hornibrook-era at Wisconsin.