These were intended to be among the finest hours and fastest laps turned in by Austin Mudd.
Previously a first-team All-American in the indoor mile and outdoor 1,500-meter run, the University of Wisconsin senior couldn’t wait for his final collegiate seasons to play out.
That he’s been forced to push them back one year is something Mudd hadn’t anticipated.
The toll the hours, days, weeks and, ultimately, years of training takes on a track athlete’s body caught up with Mudd, who because of Achilles tendonitis in both feet redshirted the Badgers’ indoor and outdoor seasons.
No surgical procedures were necessary. What Mudd required was the age-old combination of time and rest.
“I made it through the entire fall, but it was over winter break I felt a very mild pain for a couple of weeks. It was then I took most of January off,” said Mudd, who as a Center Grove senior dominated the 2011 IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals to lead the Trojans to their only team championship.
“Once we realized I would have to redshirt indoors it was kind of thought I would redshirt the outdoor season, too.”
This isn’t to imply Mudd has been reduced to afterthought status. Far from it.
In time, he began training again. And though Mudd’s redshirt prevents him from wearing Wisconsin gear or traveling to an event utilizing university transportation, he is permitted to compete unattached now that the appropriate time off has rid him of the pain he had been experiencing.
Mudd has done so twice at the Wisconsin Twilight Meet on May 8 on the Wisconsin campus and the May 1 Gregory Invitational hosted by North Central College, a Division III school in Naperville, Illinois.
On May 8, in what was his first outdoor event in 11 months, Mudd placed sixth in the 1,500 in 3:52.96.
The time was more than seven seconds behind Badgers freshman and first-place finisher Joe Hardy and well off Mudd’s outdoor personal-best of 3:40.16 achieved last May.
Mudd was happy to be racing again but realizes there is work to be done to bring his times back down.
“Getting back in shape took a little bit of time. Right now I just feel I need to get some races,” said Mudd, who despite this hiccup continues to hold Wisconsin’s record in the mile (3:57.93) and is fifth all-time among Badgers’ runners in the 800-meter run (1:47.59).
“Right now the big picture is the USA Championships in June.”
Mudd’s college track career to this point has been essentially what those who observed his double-whammy as a high school senior — shattering the seemingly untouchable state finals standards in the 800 and 1,600 — envisioned.
His outdoor season accomplishments aside, Mudd owns Wisconsin’s fastest indoor mile (3:57.93) and its fourth-fastest indoor 800 time (1:48.24). He’s also contributed to the program’s second- and third-fastest indoor distance medley relay efforts.
Under normal circumstances, Mudd would have been on the Michigan State University campus this past weekend producing points for the Badgers at the Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships. After all, he placed third in the 800 a year ago at the same venue.
The goal now is for him to return to top form in time for the 2015-16 indoor/outdoor track and field seasons.
“We redshirted Austin because he was banged up during the winter and missed a big chunk of training. He is back training now at 100 percent but just needs more time,” said Mick Byrne, Wisconsin’s director of cross-country and track and field.
“Austin’s workouts are good, but he is rusty as far as racing goes. Our plan is for him to race this summer.”
THE MUDD FILE
Name: Austin Mudd
Family: Parents, Tony and Susan; brother, Dalton
High school: Center Grove (2011)
College: University of Wisconsin
Top college times: Indoor — 400 (49.97), 600 (1:20.31), 800 (1:48.24), mile (3:57.93). Outdoor — 400 (49.09), 800 (1:47.59), 1,500 (3:40.16).