This was no average field. Ahmed won the Big Ten individual title in 2011 and has since competed in three Olympic Games for Team Canada, winning silver in the 5,000 in 2021. Ben Blankenship of Minnesota became a U.S. Olympian in the 1,500 in 2016 and became the first at his school to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Andy Bayer of Indiana was an NCAA champion in the 1,500 who won six Big Ten track titles. All were known for their finishing kicks.
With roughly 1,500 meters left in the 8K race, Ahmed hit the gas pedal.
“He’s probably going to win this,’’ Peacock thought to himself.
Instead of wilting, Peacock, wearing bib No. 269, stayed with the leaders.
“For a while I felt I was holding on for dear life in that last mile because everything was smoking fast,’’ he said.
“As we rounded the corner to come up the hill on the finishing stretch, I noticed we were catching Moh (Ahmed), so that enticed me to hang on. It was just one of those things. I passed Blankenship and I passed Moh. I just got this momentum building and somehow found a pretty crazy kick over the last 100 meters.’’
The last straightaway to the finish was lined with roaring fans, most of them rooting for the Badgers. The scene gave Peacock a boost.
“The volume and energy that was created there is part of what helped me to summon that kick,’’ Peacock said. “It got the adrenaline going for sure.’’
Peacock leaned past Bayer right before the finish line, clocking in at 23 minutes, 40.8 seconds. Bayer checked in at 23:41.3. Blankenship placed third in 23:41.4. Ahmed was fourth in 23:42.7.
“I knew I was up against some strong finishers and that wasn’t my forte,’’ Peacock said. “I usually fared better in races that went out fast and I got to gap people and beat them that way.’’
Byrne was 500 meters from the finish line when he heard the crowd roaring. He knew some of his runners were in the mix for the top spot –Elliot Krause and Maverick Darling were fifth and sixth, respectively – but Peacock was not a name to come to mind as the winner.
“Total surprise,’’ Byrne said of the finish.
Byrne, hired in 2008 to replace Jerry Schumacher as the Wisconsin coach, said Peacock “wasn’t the best kicker in the world, but to outkick those guys, it was like ‘Where did that come from?’’’
The Badgers totaled 25 points. Indiana was a distant second with 78.