Earlier in the week, IU cross-country coach Ron Helmer predicted Friday’s Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, might be a humbling experience for many of his top runners.
His worst fears came true as both the men's and women's teams were served with wake-up calls this weekend.
Entering the highly-competitive race, the Hoosiers planned on duking it out with some of the best teams in the country.
However, IU's results were lackluster.
The women’s team finished 17th overall out of 33 schools in the 6k race, while the men’s team struggled to a 29th-place finish out of 35 schools in the 8k race.
Both teams finished behind multiple Big Ten opponents as the women trailed Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State, while the men could not beat out Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin or Illinois.
It was all part of an outing in which Helmer said he just didn’t see the kind of effort from either of his teams that he had hoped for going in.
“I was pretty disappointed in the effort that we got,” Helmer said. “I thought we ran well at the front on both sides but after that, I just don’t feel like we competed nearly as well as we have been.”
The two bright spots for IU came via its top runners on both teams in junior Katherine Receveur and sophomore Ben Veatch.
Receveur continued the rapid pace of her impressive 2017 season as she finished 10th overall in the women’s race with a time of 20:00.02. She also managed to finish as the top individual from the Big Ten. The next closest runner was Wisconsin freshman Alicia Monson who finished in 19th with a time of 20:13.7
Receveur carried the women’s team as the next four Hoosier runners — junior Maggie Allen (101st), junior Brenna Calder (103rd), sophomore Lexa Barrott (119th) and junior Haley Harris (121st) — all finished outside of the top 100.
Helmer said he was happy with Recevuer and sophomore Grace Walther, who finished 10th overall in the women’s open “B” race with a time of 21:20.3. Walther's performance in the "B" race, which features only unattached runners that don't count towards a team's overall score, would have made her IU’s fourth-best runner in the main race.
“Katherine got right with the top four or five people and ran until she got into a little bit of trouble then gathered herself to finish strong to get back up to 10th,” Helmer said. “I felt like in a race where she was not feeling good at all, she gave herself a chance to be as good as she could be today.”
Meanwhile, Veatch led the way for the men’s team, finishing 28th overall and coming in with a time of 24:06.7.
Like Receveur, he carried most of the load for his team as junior Kyle Burks (154th), sophomore Kyle Mau (159th), junior Joe Murphy (173rd) and sophomore Bryce Millar (177th) all finished near the back of pack in the 235-man field.
Sticking with the theme of the day, it was the lack of effort in Helmer’s eyes that plagued the men’s team.
“I thought both Ben and Katherine gave really solid efforts today,” Helmer said. “They both did what great athletes do and that’s when the competition gets really tough, they stick their nose in and compete really hard. I thought both of them represented themselves pretty well.”
With the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington just two weeks away, Helmer is still confident in his teams despite not finishing where he had liked in Madison.
“If we run like we did a couple weeks ago, I think we’ll compete really well,” Helmer said. “We have to get ready and believe in ourselves a little to go out and do what we’ve done before. If they do that, I think we’ll probably beat some of the teams that beat us today but not if we run like we did today.”
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