Indiana Daily Student

Column: IU will end Wisconsin's streak

In the Big Ten, rarely is a team as dominant as the Wisconsin men’s cross country team. When the sun rises this Sunday in Madison, Wis., the Badgers will have their sights set on a 12th-straight Big Ten Championship.

The only other teams that can be mentioned in the same breath with the supremacy of Wisconsin cross country are Penn State volleyball (seven consecutive conference titles) or Northwestern women’s tennis (12 straight conference titles).

“Eleven years in a row in a cross country conference doesn’t happen by accident,” IU coach Ron Helmer said. “They have had very good coaches and as a result have a very good tradition that expects them to continue to keep winning.”

Helmer and the Hoosiers will aim to play the role of spoiler to the Badgers’ party this weekend.

IU is currently ranked No. 7 in the nation, one spot behind Wisconsin, and has already made its presence felt in Madison this season.

Earlier this month at the adidas Invitational, the Hoosiers defeated the Badgers and won the event.

However, the Badgers were without their top runner, Maverick Darling, and he has since returned to Wisconsin’s lineup.

On paper, separating these two teams is nearly impossible, but junior De’Sean Turner knows the Hoosiers can beat the Badgers on their home course.

“Going into the Big Ten course and showing them that we have five, six, seven guys that are capable of running with the top group gives us a lot of confidence,” Turner said.

One of the special aspects of this weekend’s Big Ten Championships is that it’s just the beginning of several championship races for IU’s distance runners.

After the NCAA Championships in November, the Hoosiers will take a short break before turning their attention to the indoor track season in the early part of the spring and then to the outdoor track season.

“We are definitely a track-focused team, but cross country is still very important to all the distance guys,” sophomore Andy Bayer said.  “We haven’t won a Big Ten Championship in 30 years, so to win one would be very exciting, and I definitely think it’s high up on the list of goals for all the guys.”

Helmer knows that pacing his distance runners is a key to long-term success.

“The Big Ten Championships is still a late October event for a bunch of kids that will be running in June,” Helmer said. “You have to balance off that first championship opportunity in October, and you have to look at the whole year in a cycle with points along the way.”

Stealing an overused sports cliché from every coach around the nation — the Hoosiers must take it one game (or in this case, race) at a time.

The opportunity to end an 11-year streak to win the conference doesn’t come around very often, and the chance to do it on Halloween at Wisconsin’s home course just makes the candy that much sweeter.

“I think they have gotten so good, and I don’t think people will admit it, but people have deferred to Wisconsin,” Helmer said.  “When we started several years ago we needed to eat into the fact that we needed to start competing against Wisconsin, and that’s what we have been trying to do.”

Come Halloween Sunday, it will be the Hoosiers enjoying the sweet treat of a Big Ten


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