This year’s cross country season had its ups and downs, but to IU coach Ron Helmer and the rest of the team, it is a learning and building process.
Both teams came into the season with high expectations for the year after being introduced to a rigorous and intense offseason workout regimen. At the beginning of the season, Helmer explained the new program.
“We want to be better than we’ve been and reflect our training,” he said. “It was difficult for us to train at a high level as youth, but now we are more mature.”
Maturity began paying dividends for both teams early on in the season with the men and women taking home first place accolades at the Indiana Open in Terre Haute on Sept. 18.
While winning the Indiana Open was a bright spot in the year, the Paul Short Memorial Invitational can be considered the high point for the season. The race took place in Bethlehem, Pa., and put IU on the national map.
The men finished first overall and beat ranked foes such as Iona, N.C. State and Princeton, while being paced by breakout freshman Andy Bayer.
Iona came into the meet as a national runner-up, and the Hoosiers proved they could not only compete with the elite programs, but beat them as well.
The meet was also important in the growth of the women’s team. Senior Wendi Robinson finished fourth overall in the meet, pacing the Hoosiers to a third-place finish.
At this point in the season, Indiana was also beginning to earn the respect of the Big Ten, with four players in three weeks earning Big Ten Player of the Week accolades.
Robinson and Bayer won for their performance at the Paul Short Invitational, and they joined sophomore Andrew Poore and freshman Zach Mayhew, who had won the award in previous weeks.
On Oct. 17, the men and women continued their successful season with first-place finishes at the Sam Bell Invitational in Bloomington. This was special for the players, as IU legend Bob Kennedy and Bell himself were both in attendance.
However, following the mid-season success, the Hoosier men began slumping down the stretch. A fourth-place finish for the men in regional competition wasn’t what the team had set out to achieve, and they failed to qualify for the national race.
However, sophomore Andrew Poore did make it to his first national race as an individual, finishing 137th and paving the way for a bright future at IU.
“The men definitely made progress this year,” Helmer said. “We just didn’t get the result that accurately reflected the progress. However, by winning in the middle of the season, we showed we can be a great, great team.”
The Hoosier women had a different November, as their performance at regionals earned them their first national race bid since 2004 and the seventh in the program’s history.
“We were one of the 31 best teams in the nation,” Helmer said. “And we definitely deserved to be there.”