The rivalry between IU and Purdue will continue this weekend on the track when the Hoosiers’ track and field team travels to West Lafayette, Indiana, to compete in the Rankin/Poehlein Invitational.
Even though these two long-time foes will be facing off in a head-to-head dual meet, this will not be a typical competitive battle between the two schools.
Both teams are at similar spots in their seasons, and both have a big meet coming up soon. IU Coach Ron Helmer said this weekend is more for developing his athletes and preparing for the end of the year rather than trying to put up the most points.
“Neither one of us wanted to go hard at each other, and we didn’t want to travel," Helmer said. "Last year they came here for a dual meet, and we were able to get a lot of things done with our athletes.”
This meet will be scored since it has less than five teams involved. Helmer said he will run his athletes in their off events to get the work they needed and that he suspects Purdue to do the same.
“In the indoor season, both teams approached this meet differently and went hard at each other,” Helmer said. “We brought it to them and they took it to us. That was a really important part of the season because it was a good team building experience early on.”
The Hoosiers are nearing the end of their outdoor season with the Big Ten Championships only a month away. Helmer said this dual meet with the Boilermakers comes at a completely different time than their matchup during indoor season.
After the Penn Relays, IU will be host to the Billy Hayes Invitational in Bloomington. The conference meet is the following week and then the team gets a week off before the NCAA East Regionals.
“We need to do what’s best for our very best athletes,” Helmer said. “What we are really interested in accomplishing this weekend is setting our guys up to have good times at the relay meet.”
Helmer referenced sophomore Willie Morrison as one of his athletes who could benefit from this meet. Morrison has had an impressive second year at IU. He has the school record in the shot put for both the indoor and outdoor season.
Last week at the Louisville Invitational, he won the shot put and also won his first discus throw competition. Helmer said Morrison is more than capable of competing in multiple events.
“He just had an exceptional week in his two events,” Helmer said. “This week he’s going to throw the hammer, but might not throw the shot or discus.”
By allowing his athletes to perform in their off-events during a scored competition, Helmer forces his team to get better but also gives the athletes a chance to rest in the event they would typically compete in.
“It doesn’t matter to me at this point in time,” Helmer said. “I just want Willie doing the things he needs to be doing so that he can be a Big Ten Champion, qualify for the national meet and become an All-American. Those are the things that are most important to us right now as a team.”
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