Wisconsin has built itself into a cross country powerhouse over the past several years. New head coach Mick Byrne understands that, and he doesn’t want that to change.Byrne addressed the media Monday for the first time since taking over for former head coach Jerry Schumacher, who left the program to take a position with Nike as a coach for elite runners.“I’m a new old guy on the block, so I’m really excited to be here,” Byrne said. “A little bit different, obviously, than the Bronx.”Byrne acknowledged the legacy Schumacher left behind but also boasts a rather impressive r?sum? himself.As the head coach at Iona College in New York for 24 years, his Gaels team finished second in last year’s national championship — ahead of Wisconsin, which finished fifth. Iona also claimed third place in 2006 and fourth place in 2003 and 2005.“Wisconsin’s had a great tradition. We’ve also, by the way, had a great tradition at Iona College,” Byrne said. “The plan is to continue a great tradition and get out there and get back on the podium this year and win the Big Ten. We’ve won it the past nine years, so I’m looking forward to, hopefully, our 10th victory and then going out to nationals and getting back on the podium as a top four finisher.”The transition between coaches elicited mixed results among the Badger runners. Two members of the UW squad — Brandon Bethke and Evan Jager — chose to take different paths, leaving the team.“The way I look at it is any change you can either look at as an opportunity or you can go the other way with it,” Byrne said. “Unfortunately, those guys needed to move on and do something differently.”Even though this year’s roster is already familiar with Schumacher’s style, Byrne feels he brings a lot to a program rich in tradition.“I think a lot of what we do philosophy-wise is pretty similar,” Byrne said of Schumacher. “We might have a different approach to some aspects of it, but I think kids are always looking for new ideas. I think I’m bringing some fresh ideas.”Moving to the bigger stage in Madison presents new opportunities for Byrne. At Iona — a small school in the Bronx with an enrollment of just 3,500 — there wasn’t much on campus to draw in potential student-athletes on recruiting visits.“It was tough for us to get kids from the Midwest to come to Iona College,” Byrne said. “The differences are obvious. Big-time football, big-time basketball, hockey — all the great things that any 17, 18-year-old kid would enjoy on a college campus. We didn’t have that. The atmosphere was completely different.” In fact, Byrne himself has already taken in some of the big-campus atmosphere since he arrived.“I’ve spent my last two Saturdays at the games, and I’m just blown away by the whole atmosphere, the involvement of the student bodies, the involvement of the community,” Byrne said. “It seemed like everybody in the state of Wisconsin (was) at the games the last two weeks.”To some, it may come as a surprise to see Byrne leave such a successful program at Iona that he had helped build. But for him, the move was something he had wanted to do for a while, but was waiting for the right time.That time was now.“The University of Wisconsin is Big Ten, big-time athletics. I always wanted to make that move,” Byrne said. “It was a great time to make it right now. I felt we were at the top of the game at Iona College. The last couple of years, we were fourth, third and second [at nationals]. I felt that if I was ever going to do it, it was the right time to do it.”
“I must say that this is the foremost sporting competition in this country and seeing some of the champions still connected to the championships showed the good organisation that the competition has continued to enjoy. I am pledging the support of the state to the tournament and we hope more top players can come through again like other top stars like Olufunke Oshonaike, Atanda Musa and a host of others,” Tinubu said. However, being the oldest sporting competition in the country, the 48th edition will commence on Monday November 21 with 22 titles expected to be jostled for by players in Lagos State. For Ayodeji Okoya-Thomas, the Okoya-Thomas family would continue to water the seed sown by their late father, while disclosing that this year’s the women singles title would be renamed and known as Lady Olivet Okoya-Thomas Women’s trophy after their departed mother. His words: “This of course will be the second, after 46 years, that is not being addressed by the initiator and sole sponsor of the tournament, Sir Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas. One of his greatest wishes while alive was that the family should continue the sponsorship of the tournament after his demise; we would therefore like to give God all the glory for giving us the enablement to continue this noble legacy for the second year running since he was called to glory.” The grand finale is schedule for Friday November 25 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram As one of its unique sporting competition, the Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC) has pledged its support to the annual Asoju Oba Molade Okoya-Thomas Table Tennis Cup as the 48th edition of the competition begins on Monday November 21.According to the chairman of LSSC, Deji Tinubu, it behoves on the state to continue to nurture the tournament which had produced stars for the state and the country.