As Sunday morning quickly approaches, the IU men’s and women’s cross country teams prepare to put their season training to the test as they travel to University Park, Pa., to compete in the 2009 Big Ten Championships.
“This is what we point toward – championship season. Everything else is preparation,” IU coach Ron Helmer said. “We challenged the guys and they responded at Lehigh (with a first-place finish), but an even greater challenge is to beat Wisconsin. For the girls, if we can get in the top half of the field, it’d be a great run, given the fact we are still a little inexperienced. If we build on that, we may have a chance to slide into nationals.”
The Hoosier men are holding onto a No. 18 ranking in the national polls, just one point ahead of New Mexico. In order to increase their national resume, knocking off No. 15 Wisconsin would make quite a statement.
The feat will not be an easy one, as Wisconsin comes into the race as 10-time perennial champions, dating back to the 1999 season. However, IU has a lot of firepower to combat the Wisconsin assault, as three different Hoosiers have been named Big Ten Player of the Week so far this year.
“For Big Tens, I’m pretty excited,” former POTW and freshman Andy Bayer said. “Wisconsin is a perennial powerhouse and will be our biggest competition, but I think the team has a great shot of winning for the first time in a long time.”
As for the women, senior Wendi Robinson and junior Sarah Pease look to pace the young Hoosiers this weekend. Their biggest task will be keeping up with Minnesota, who has won the last two Big Ten Championships and comes in ranked No. 15 in the nation.
“As a core, we have the opportunity to run against good teams and do well,” Robinson said. “Our workout intensity has decreased this week, and Coach has us running on fresh legs. I know the weather has been rainy there, but those conditions are fine because cross country is about running in the cold, rain and mud.”