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Exclusive club: Center Grove grad runs sub-4-minute mile

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Former Center Grove standout Austin Mudd is a sophomore on the Wisconsin men's track and field team. An IHSAA state champion his senior year with the Trojans, Mudd is one of the NCAA's top distance runners.
Former Center Grove standout Austin Mudd is a sophomore on the Wisconsin men's track and field team. An IHSAA state champion his senior year with the Trojans, Mudd is one of the NCAA's top distance runners. SUBMITTED PHOTO

No matter how fast he runs, Austin Mudd can’t seem to shake Rudy Chapa. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

The two discovered more common ground on Saturday when Mudd, the former Center Grove High School standout, blazed a 3:59.33 to win the mile at Meyo Indoor Track Invitational at the University of Notre Dame.

The University of Wisconsin sophomore is only the eighth former Indiana prep athlete to break the tape under 4 minutes at the collegiate level. Not surprisingly, Chapa, the former phenom from Hammond whose 35-year-old State Meet record in the mile (replaced in 1980 by the 1,600-meter run) was lowered by Mudd in 2011, was the first.

According to Track & Field News, Mudd, 19, is the 388th member of the American Sub 4-minute Club. Both are exclusive fraternities he is proud to be in.

“I don’t think I would call it the best race I’ve ever run, but it’s up there,” Mudd said. “Coming down the homestretch I could see the clock and it said, 3:51. Once the race was over I looked at the clock again just to make sure I had really done it. I wanted to (break 4 minutes) in high school at the Dream Mile.”

Mudd came close in June 2011, producing a 4:01.83 to place second at the annual Jim Ryun Dream Mile in New York City. As someone who specializes in the 800- and 1,500-meter events in college, it would be the last competitive mile Mudd would run until his feat five days ago in South Bend.

“Austin is a competitor. Every miler wants to run a sub-4-minute mile. I saw a big smile on his face after the meet,” said Badgers assistant track coach Mick Byrne, whose responsibility it is to focus on the distance runners. “We talked afterward, and Austin knows you have to be very careful because of the volume of competition we still have ahead of us.”

Translation: Enjoy and take enormous pride in the accomplishment, but there are bigger fish to fry.

For Mudd, that begins this weekend at the Husky Classic, a meet held at Dempsey Indoor, the University of Washington’s 80,000-square-foot track and field facility. Mudd is scheduled to take part in the 800 and will not run the mile while in Seattle.

“As they say, variety is the spice of life. We’re not going to chase times (in the mile),” Byrne said. “Last weekend in terms of where we’re at in our training was exciting. Long-term goals for Austin are the outdoor season, and anything that happens indoors is a bonus. We have to put everything in perspective.”

Wisconsin’s indoor track and field season began on Jan. 12 and doesn’t conclude until March 8-9 with the NCAA Indoor Championships at the University of Arkansas. The Big Ten Indoor Championships take place Feb. 22-23 at Geneva, Ohio.

The Badgers begin competition outside starting with the Alabama Relays in Tuscaloosa March 22-23. Then it’s the Stanford Invitational and a flurry of other big-name venues before heading to the Big Ten Outdoor Championships at Ohio State from May 10-12. Preliminaries for the NCAA Outdoor Championships start May 23 in Austin, Texas.

Mudd accomplished much as a UW freshman. His 1:47.59 in the 800 ranks fifth all-time in Badgers history, and he qualified for the 2012 NCAA preliminaries in that same event. He garnered Second Team All-America status both indoors as part of Wisconsin’s ninth-place distance medley relay team and outdoors in the 800.

He plans to do even better this spring, preferably in both events.

“The 1,500 and 800 ... I don’t think I could pick a favorite. Having both spices things up. I think I would get bored if I would only be doing one,” he said. “For me, I’m really happy with my progression. It’s just getting consistent training. Staying healthy and getting the mileage in during the fall.”

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