Winning the IU Open on Sept. 2 gave sophomore Ben Veatch a sensation he hadn’t felt since his days at Carmel High School. After spending his freshman cross-country season at IU in the shadows of now-graduated stars Jason Crist and Matthew Schwartzer, he took advantage of the opportunity to earn his first collegiate victory right away.
Now he just wants more.
“I want to win the individual Big Ten title and be an All-American,” Veatch said. “I don’t really focus on that because I know as long as I focus on what we’re doing as a team those individual accolades will come.”
This season is full of things Veatch hasn’t experienced since high school. With Crist and Schwartzer gone, he’s the leader of the pack for his team once again. With that distinction comes great expectations, not just from the coaches, but from himself as well.
Big things have been expected of Veatch since his freshman year. He was unanimously voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year in cross-country and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after an eighth-place finish in the conference meet. However, Coach Ron Helmer has seen Veatch’s potential since he recruited him out of high school.
“Ben was running at a pretty elite level in high school so I expected him to come in and help us right away,” Helmer said. “He competed at a really high level last year and he didn’t disappoint.”
Though Veatch's freshman year had its share of triumphs, it was also a year spent as an apprentice under last year’s seniors to get him ready for the position he is in now. A year running alongside Crist and Schwartzer, who both qualified for the NCAA Championships in 2016, helped Veatch realize what he has to do to sustain his spot as one of the top competitors in the Big Ten.
"I wish they had more eligibility. I would have loved to run with them for a couple more years,” Veatch said. “Coming into last year I had a lot to learn on how to run in a pack and how to relax during races. They showed me how to do all that and so many more little things that I never thought about before as a runner.”
Even with the success and experience from last year, Helmer wants more from Veatch. He is looking to tap into even more potential that opponents have yet to see. Improvement from Helmer's top runners could prove to be monumental for his young team this year, and it starts with training.
“Ben had never trained at this high of a level,” Helmer said. “That’s been the biggest change for him. A year ago, he might have been running 45 to 50 miles a week. He’s now up to 70 a week.”
It’s the team aspect that drives Veatch to get better. Not only was it a first-place finish for Veatch, it was an eye-opening victory for a young IU team which defeated multiple Big Ten opponents and swept the top-four individual spots.
“The goal is always the same and that’s to win a Big Ten title,” Veatch said. “We have a very young talented team. We’re looking to do big things and defend our home course at the Big Ten championship. We’re really excited about it being in Bloomington this year and getting the chance to show everybody what being a Hoosier really means.
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