4. Wisconsin Badgers
- Seth Hirsch (4:14 / 8:54 / 14:25)
- Finn Gessner (4:12 / 8:47 / 14:39)
- Tannor Wagner (4:10 / 8:57 / 15:05)
- Benjamin Micallef (49 / 1:52)
Prior to 2015, the Wisconsin Badgers had the longest streak in the NCAA of qualifying for the cross country national championships for 43 straight years. Despite a hiccup in 2015 that ended the streak, the Badgers are still considered a distance running powerhouse with a legendary coach, top-notch low sticks, and a slew of depth.
But like any other team, the Badgers are beginning to see their roster change. With the recent graduation of Malachy Schrobilgen and veterans like Morgan McDonald and Joe Hardy entering their final year, the men from Wisconsin will need to develop their younger talent in hopes that they can sustain a competitive program for the future.
History says that the Badgers will be just fine regardless of who they bring in and with a recruiting class like this, it's hard not to get excited.
One of those recruits is Seth Hirsch, the Nebraska state champion with multiple experiences on the national stage. As a junior, he placed 9th at both NXN and Footlocker Nationals. He later improved on those finishes in 2016 with a 4th place finish at NXN and a 3rd place finish at Footlocker making him a four time high school All-American.
Much like Hirsch, Finn Gessner is another cross country stud who attempted the NXN / Footlocker double in 2015. As a junior, Gessner was 8th at NXN and 11th at Footlocker. However, in his final year of competition, Gessner opted to race at only Footlocker and forgo NXN despite winning the NXN Heartland regional race three weeks earlier. Gessner's decision turned out to be the right one as he earned a runner-up finish at the 2016 Footlocker Nationals Championships.
Hirsch and Gessner are the perfect fit for Wisconsin. Both recruits are clearly cross country oriented which is typically the focus of this Badger program. Not only will they add to the never ending depth of this roster, but they will most likely develop into a strong duo that Wisconsin is known to have (think McDonald/Schrobilgen & Snider/Hacker).
The Badgers may thrive during cross country with Hirsch and Gessner, but they will get a solid boost on the track with mile specialist Tannor Wagner.
Wagner may "only" have a personal best of 4:10, but this kid is a winner who hasn't been pushed to his full potential yet. The two-time Wisconsin state champion recorded an astonishing career total of 43 wins between track and cross country. For even the most elite high school athletes, that number of wins is incredibly high. For comparison, Gessner finished high school with 41 wins while Hirsch finished with 30.
The Badgers have seen steady success in the 1500/mile distance with guys like Joe Hardy, Oliver Hoare, Austin Mudd, and Morgan McDonald making some noise on a national level. It will be no surprise to me if Wagner joins that list of star Wisconsin milers and ends up as a multi All-American.
The last name to mention is Ben Micallef who will bring some much needed and appreciated middle distance speed to this Wisconsin program. With a personal best of 1:52, Micallef can expect to be one of the top half-milers in the program. Micallef is also in a great position in regards to development. Rising Wisconsin junior Eric Brown has shown some steady improvement in the 800 with a personal best of 1:48 this past spring track season. With Brown having two more years of eligibility left, Micallef will be able to learn from and train with one of the top half-milers in the BIG 10.
Wisconsin is a program of excellence. They have always been at the top of the rankings and will continue to be at the top until they are no longer able to recruit elite talent like the guys above. When will that be? Based on these incoming freshmen, not any time soon...