Wisconsin track & field: Mohammed Ahmed earns podium finish at NCAA outdoor championships

FILE: Wisconsin's Mohammed Ahmed at the 2012 NCAA cross country championships at E.P. Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky. - Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

Zach Ziemek also posted his best opening-day score in the decathalon.

Wisconsin men's track & field star Mohammed Ahmed began his final NCAA outdoor championships in great fashion Thursday, posting a third-place podium finish in the 10,000 meters at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. His time of 28 minutes, 43.82 seconds trailed only Oregon's Edward Cheserek and Oklahoma State's Shadrack Kipchirchir. It was also Wisconsin's best finish in the 10,000 meters since Simon Bairu's third-place finish in 2006.

With under 10 laps remaining, the St. Catharines, Ontario, native claimed the lead from pre-race favorite Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech before falling behind the top finishers with four laps to go. He made one last push for the lead heading into the bell lap and regained it for a brief moment before Cheserek and Kipchirchir overcame him in the final 200 meters.

After the first day of competition, Wisconsin is tied for seventh with six points. Oregon leads all teams with 15 points.

"It went to plan that Coach (Mick) Byrne and I talked about," Ahmed said. "We wanted to be top three, right around there. It had some ups and downs towards the end, and Cheserek and Kipchirchir blew me away in the last 200 meters.

"Overall, I'm a little disappointed but I gave it everything I had."

Cheserek finished in 28:30.18 while Kipchirchir posted a time of 28:32.31. Kithuka finished fourth at 28:46.21.

"We are proud of him," Wisconsin director of track and field and cross country Mick Byrne said. "He made a big effort right around the 7K mark when he took the lead. It shows how tough he is. He suffered a little bit and was dropped with about 1,000 meters to go. But all the credit to him as he was able to get back in the group and just didn't have the legs the last 200 meters to match Cheserek or Kipchirchir.

"But he was third at the national championship, and he was able to score some points for us."

Ahmed will return to action Friday in the 5,000 meters beginning at 8:10 p.m. CT.

Zach Ziemek posts best opening-day score in decathalon

Zach Ziemek posted a new best opening-day decathlon score for the second straight year on Thursday. His 4,223 points sit second through five events of the 10-event competition.

On his second attempt at the long jump, Ziemek, known as "Double Z" to the team, leaped 25 feet, 4/12 inches -- not only a personal best, but the best decathlon long jump performance in Wisconsin history. Overall, that mark is also fourth on the school's all-time overall long jump list.

Ziemek also posted a personal-best 50.20 time in the 400 meters. The Itasca, Illinois, native returns to action Thursday at 1 p.m. for the 110 hurdles. Michael Lihrman will also make his NCAA outdoor debut for the Badgers in the hammer throw, while Alex Brill will run in the first heat of the 3000 steeplechase.

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