Since cross country was introduced to IU in 1910, the Hoosiers have run a clean, storied program over the last 99 years.
IU has been a top-tier program for nearly a century. They have captured the Big Ten Championship 16 total times, 14 for the men and 2 for the women, as well as men’s national championships in 1938, 1940 and 1942.
Five Hoosiers have also been crowned individual national champions – 3 men and 2 women. The three individual men’s championships put them in an elite class, being the only Big Ten team to accomplish the feat, and just one of four teams in the country to do so.
The women are also a historical powerhouse, as their 2 individual champions are the only team in the Big Ten to do that, as well.
“The first-ever NCAA National championship which Indiana won, two individual champions that we’ve had ... all those things are on my mind and the mind of our kids, but certainly focusing on those things can’t be what we do,” IU coach Ron Helmer said. “Focus on today and focus on tomorrow in our attempt to position ourselves to take our place in Indiana University cross-country history.”
Cross country started off small at Indiana, when there were only 1,012 students attending the Bloomington campus.
When enrollment tripled by 1930 to 3,560 students, extracurricular activities and athletics took off. This spawned a growing interest in running that translated to a span from 1928 to 1938 when the Hoosiers took every Big Ten championship back to Bloomington. The ’38, ’40 and ’42 seasons saw NCAA National Championships under the direction of coach E.C. “Billy” Hayes.
Hayes is the current namesake for IU’s Billy Hayes Track.
From 1946 to 1980, the Hoosiers enjoyed five more Big Ten championships, and in 1981, the NCAA officially recognized the Indiana women’s cross country team as a sport.
It didn’t take long for the women to put their program on the national map – in 1987 Kim Betz won the NCAA individual title.
Around that time, perhaps the most recognizable Hoosier runner of the time, Bob Kennedy, emerged onto the scene. He and Michelle Dekkers took home NCAA titles in 1988. Kennedy would go on to win the individual NCAA title once again in 1992, as well as breaking the All-time record on IU’s course.
The record still stands to this day.
Kennedy was also an Olympian, participating in the 1992 Barcelona games and the 1996 Atlanta games.
More recently, the Hoosiers have reemerged onto the national spotlight once again.
Jordan Kyle became the first freshmen All-American in 2006 since Kennedy, and only the third to do so in program history. Wendi Robinson also earned All-American accolades for her performance at the 2008 NCAA cross country meet, becoming only the seventh All-American for the women’s team.
“Our goal is to get our team together to get back to nationals,” junior Sarah Pease said. “It would really meaningful to join the crowd of IU cross country runners who have become All-Americans.”
A storied program in tradition and excellence, the Indiana cross country team is reminded of the past but always looks forward.
“That’s definitely important to me and everyone else on the team,” junior Ben Hubers said. “I really look up to Bob Kennedy. It’s my goal and everyone else’s to make our place in history and achieve what they’ve achieved and more so we can make our place in history.”