Wisconsin's athlete standouts go far beyond the gridiron or the basketball court. The non-revenue sports may lack the fanfare and popularity that coincide with football and basketball, but sports like softball, swimming and cross country have sensational athletes, too.
UWBadgers.com is announcing its 2012-13 Athlete of the Year this afternoon, and below is a look at the candidates.
After her cross country eligibility ended in 2011, Comfort turned her focus to track and the results were phenomenal. She won the 5,000-meter run at the Big Ten indoor championships and the 10,000 meters in the Big Ten outdoor championships back in May. Her winning time of 33:30.16 was 44 seconds better than the second-place finisher -- that's a serious whooping.
Decker won the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award given to the best player in women's collegiate hockey. She was also the 2012 female Athlete of the Year, alongside male winner Montee Ball. This season, Decker followed that up with another outstanding campaign as a senior, scoring 29 goals and tallying 26 assists. Her 55 points ranked 10th-best in the nation.
Darling is one of the most decorated runners in Wisconsin and Big Ten history. This season, he was a first-team All-America and All-Big Ten honoree in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. He also helped the Badgers capture a league-record 14th-consecutive conference title in cross country.
Graff's decision to redshirt last season was a wise one. The junior became the ninth three-time All-American in Wisconsin wrestling history. He recorded his best career NCAA championship finish when he placed third at the 133-pound weight class this season. He led the Badgers in wins (33), wins over ranked opponents (14) and Big Ten wins (11).
What a sophomore season it was for Martin. The women's sprint swimmer finished sixth in the 50-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships and was a first-team All-Big Ten honoree. She capped off her year by garnering the Madison Sports Hall of Fame Club's Sportswoman of the Year award.
The outstanding hockey winger will be an LA King someday, but thankfully we get to enjoy his talents for another year in Madison. During his junior season, Mersch led the Badgers with 23 goals and 36 points. He ranked 11th in the nation in goals per game and was awarded the Spike Carlson Most Valuable Player honor by his teammates.
The winner of the 200-yard backstroke (1:38.27) at the 2013 NCAA Championships back in March. His swim was the third-fastest in NCAA history and also set a school record. He'll be just a junior next season so expect even bigger things in the years to come.
Wisconsin women's golf made just its second appearance in the NCAA Championships, thanks in large part to the brilliant play of Yoo at the end of the season. She tied for 11th at the NCAA Regional, shooting 1-over par for three rounds. Her final-round 65 set school 18-hole record.
I've tried to find the final two nominees for this high UW honor, but to no avail. There are two athletes that have yet to be named, one male and one female. If I had to make my best guess I'd say the male athlete is Montee Ball and the final female athlete is Mary Massei of the softball team.
Obviously Montee's illustrious career speaks for itself, but I'd like to see this award go to anybody else on the men's side. My vote would go to Maverick Darling. The senior runner has the most impressive body of work to date and he's a senior. Send him off on the right note.
Over on the women's side, the favorite has to be Brianna Decker. She's one of the best hockey players in school history, and she'll be a staple on the women's national team for years to come.
Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz worked out for the Bucks yesterday. The Bruiser was his typical sarcastic self.
Wisconsin's Associate Athletic Director to receive high honor today in Orlando.
Women's hockey coach Mark Johnson will be coaching on a men's game soon. Very interesting.