It was a rare 3-D image that helped convince Georgia Ellenwood to leave British Columbia and cast her lot with the University of Wisconsin women’s track and field program.
As the top-ranked junior multi-event performer in Canada in 2012 — she has set a number of national and provincial age group records in the heptathlon — Ellenwood had her choice of college destinations before picking the Badgers over Nebraska and Oregon.
That was the year UW competitors did something unprecedented, finishing 1-2-3 in the Big Ten Conference indoor meet in the five-event pentathlon and outdoor meet in the seven-event heptathlon.
The three — Jessica Flax, Dorcas Akinniyi and Deanna Latham — own the top three scores in program history as well as multiple All-America citations.
Ellenwood, a sophomore from Langley, said that dominating performance by the Badgers three years ago caught her eye and gave her pause.
“When I was first looking for schools, I definitely looked at how the athlete, when they came into school, how they developed and the results they produced,” she said.
Ellenwood wanted to go to a school where being the best meant she’d have to battle up through the ranks.
“I want to go to a school where there are a lot of girls that are better than me so I can strive to be that and compete with them,” she said of her mindset. “I obviously don’t regret my decision.”
Now Ellenwood and Latham, a senior from Newbury, Massachusetts, are looking forward to another burst of dominance when the Big Ten men’s and women’s outdoor meet is staged today through Sunday at Ralph Young Field in East Lansing, Michigan.
Ellenwood has the second-best score among Big Ten heptathlon competitors going into the meet at 5,575 points. Latham, meanwhile, will be taking part in her first heptathlon after redshirting outdoors in 2014.
Latham, whose personal best in the event is 5,745 points, said there’s pressure in knowing this will be her only opportunity to qualify for the NCAA meet, but feels up to the challenge.
“That’s certainly in the back of my mind, but I’m a veteran in the event,” she said. “I like to think I have the events together and I’ll be able to do what I need to do.”
The UW women, fresh off a seventh-place finish in the Big Ten indoor meet, will lean heavily on their duo in the heptathlon as well as junior Kelsey Card in the shot put and discus, junior Molly Hanson in the 1,500 meters, junior Brianna Bower in the javelin and senior distance specialist Gabi Anzalone.
The UW men, meanwhile, are the defending Big Ten outdoor champions, a status that doesn’t jibe with their 10th-place showing in the indoor meet in February.
“That’s not something we’re accustomed to,” said UW coach Mick Byrne, who oversees the men’s and women’s track and field and cross country programs, “and we don’t plan on that happening.”
Leading that initiative is senior Michael Lihrman, a two-time Big Ten champion in the indoor weight throw who has the best effort in the outdoor hammer throw this spring at a school-record 247 feet.
Redshirt sophomore Jesse Johnson is fresh off setting a school standard in the pole vault and redshirt sophomore Malachy Schrobilgen has the second-best time in the Big Ten in the 5,000 meters.
A curiosity for the men will be freshman Austin Kafentzis, a quarterback candidate for the UW football team who was a record-setting prep javelin thrower in Utah. He debuted last week with an effort of 203 feet, 7 inches, which ranks as the seventh-best showing in program history.
Ellenwood and Latham are trying to regain some lost ground in the heptathlon, which is comprised of the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin and 800 meters. When Brittany Howell of Penn State won the outdoor heptathlon in 2014 it marked the first time since 2009 that a UW representative didn’t stand atop the podium.
Ellenwood, whose best events are the jumps, remembers being “super nervous” and “kind of intimidated” for her first Big Ten outdoor meet in which she placed fourth.
“Now I feel more comfortable with it,” she said. “I’m more excited than I am nervous this year.”
Latham, whose best events are the hurdles and throws, said she’s tried to create an environment for Ellenwood that’s similar to the one she experienced with Flax and Akinniyi.
“I was extremely fortunate to have Dorcas and Jessica with me,” Latham said. “It’s one thing to have someone explain events to you and another to watch someone do it.”
Ellenwood said she loves having Latham as a training partner in part because “our personalities just click” and they push one another.
“We simulate a competition every day,” Ellenwood said.