As the men’s cross country team looks ahead to a championship season, they can attribute their success not only to a strenuous workout regimen, but to strong team camaraderie and mutual leadership.
A team that is primarily comprised of underclassmen, the Hoosiers have pulled together this season in order to push themselves further and train harder.
“It’s always a good thing,” IU coach Ron Helmer said. “What we know is that every day, whether it’s practice or a meet, there’s going to be good things going on. They mesh competitiveness with sharing the spotlight and living together. These all rely on the maturation process and growing as athletes and people.”
Sharing the spotlight has been of great importance this year, as three Hoosiers have been named Big Ten Player of the Week thus far. This has included freshmen Andy Bayer and Zach Mayhew as well as sophomore Andrew Poore.
“It’s been good because we do everything together,” Poore said. “When it comes to training with each other, it’s easier, and we all step up our leadership roles. We have really bonded quickly as a team.”
However, the unity between these teammates is somewhat new. Poore ran at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, while his former roommate and current teammate sophomore Andy Weatherford ran at Greencastle High School in Greencastle, Ind.
While in high school, Poore earned all-city (2003-06), all-sectional (2004-06) and all-state (2005-06) accolades in cross country.
Weatherford’s primary strength was in track, but he was also a four-time all-county and all-sectional champion in cross country. They had heard of each other through their respected accomplishments and knew how skilled the other was, as well as other members of the IU team that ran in Indiana.
“You hold each other far more accountable and to a higher standard,” Poore said. “We all knew each other or knew who we were in high school and knew how capable of a team we could be.”
The young Hoosiers have shed old rivalries en route to creating a team that is currently No. 18 in the national rankings and in prime position to excel at the Big Ten Championships on Nov. 1.
“It’s translated really well,” Weatherford said. “We’re a close-knit team, and we all like to hang out with each other. It’s comforting to know that they’ve got your back.”