UW freshmen to race for Team USA in 5000 meters at IAAF World Juniors
Coming off of their first year at Wisconsin, the pair will represent the United States in the 5000 meters at the 2016 International Association of Athletics Federation World Junior Championships on July 23 in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
While the two joked about their plans to visit the local Museum of Soap and History of Dirt while in Bydgoszcz, they also reflected on the opportunity to wear the red, white and blue.
“To be able to put on the USA and be able to look down and see it on your chest, it means a lot because you’re representing the entire country,” Hacker, a Madison native, said.
“It’s something that every athlete dreams of,” Snider added. “To make it happen, we were both just really excited, especially that we’re able to go together as teammates.”
Only once before have two members of the Wisconsin men’s track and field program competed in the same IAAF World Junior Championships. In 2004, Paul Hubbard competed in the long jump, while fellow Badger Demi Omole won silver in the 100 meters and gold as a part of the 4×100 meter relay in Grosseto, Italy.
Both Snider and Hacker arrived at the 2016 U.S. Track and Field Junior National Championships in Clovis, California, having already attained the qualifying standard for the world junior championships, which meant a first- or second-place finish among the qualifiers would guarantee a spot on Team USA.
Snider met the qualifying standard in April at the UW-Platteville Invitational, winning the 5000 meter race with a personal best time of 14:06.76 while competing unattached. Hacker qualified in June at the Wisconsin Track Club’s Meet of Miles, winning the 3000 meter race in 8 minutes, 8.71 seconds.
“We had to work a little harder to make sure Olin had the standard going into the meet,” Snider explained. “We had a 3K out here that he was able to do it at, because we knew that the (U.S. Juniors) race probably wouldn’t be fast enough to get the standard if we didn’t have it already. We knew that if the first few laps were slow, then the standard was kind of going to go out the window and become a pure tactical race, which it ended up being.
“We were just happy not to have to worry about going for the standard and being the ones to push the pace.”
“At that point, we had the race plan and we knew that we could finish with anybody in there.” Hacker said. “We just needed to stick in the race and then be ready to finish really hard. You have to come into a race like that with confidence, no matter if you think you have a chance or not, and just be ready to go.”
The 14:15 standard came and went in the race UW head coach Mick Byrnes described as “a very slow and tactical race.” Snider, hailing from Carmel, Indiana, became the U.S. junior national champion, finishing the 5000 meter race in 15 minutes, 28.46 seconds, while Hacker took third overall in 15:29.05. As the top two finishers among those who already held the world qualifying standard, Hacker and Snider punched their tickets to represent Wisconsin and Team USA on the international stage.
“I had this vision of Zack and I sprinting down the home stretch at nationals and both of us going,” Hacker said. “That kind of sustained me throughout the first part of the summer and to have that come true is just amazing.”
Competing among the best under-20 runners in the world has been months in the making for Snider and Hacker.
“I think Mick and (distance coach) Gavin (Kennedy) had known that this was something they wanted us to do since we got here,” Snider said. “It was something that we started to discuss after I finished the indoor season in February and since then we’ve been building towards it.”
Both runners opted to redshirt the 2016 outdoor track season in preparation, training together over what Snider estimates to be between 60 and 70 miles per week. After competing against one another in national meets in high school and forming a bond as Wisconsin teammates, their friendship provides a boost in practice and competition.
“In high school, I think once we met we got along pretty well,” Snider said. “That was before I knew I was coming here. After I committed, we got closer and throughout the year obviously the entire freshman class has become really good friends. Olin and I, and a couple other guys are actually living together in an apartment next year. But having somebody who I know has got my back and in the race we can work together, I think it’s going to be really cool.
“I think going into USA’s, it was a big confidence booster to know that I had a teammate in the field. Now, especially going into an event like this where we’re not competing for Wisconsin anymore, we’re competing for the United States, having somebody who is actually my teammate is going to be really helpful.”
“I’ll definitely help a lot,” Hacker added. “Training alone is not that much fun, obviously. So just having him to do workouts with, it makes it so much easier to get out and do it.
“In terms of the race, I think it’ll be nice to have him too, because we can kind of talk about our race plan or strategy coming into it.”
Although Hacker raced once before for Team USA, competing at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country International Challenge prior to arriving at UW, both runners see the learning opportunities within the trip and the impact it will have on their track careers.
“Any time you go into a big meet like this, you kind of learn things about yourself because you’re really nervous,” Hacker said. “So it helps keep you calm in later big meets, it helps you perform well on a big stage.”
“Everybody always talks about the experience of big meets,” Snider said, “so a meet like this is going to provide very, very valuable experience, and definitely a learning experience while we’re over there. I think that as we go forward it’s going to kind of help us navigate the pressure we might put on ourselves or on our teammates at the bigger meets like the NCAA cross country championships.”
Published on UWBadgers.com
Edited by AJ Harrison