During Monday’s NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, the No. 13 IU men’s cross country team’s race plan will not change, but as November comes to an end, the team has added one element.
“No-shave November,” junior Andrew Poore said. “As a team, we all decided to do it. Only one guy on the team didn’t like the idea at first, but after we hassled a little, he came around.”
While the beards may only keep them warm, this year will be the first time the Hoosiers have advanced to the ultimate round as a team since 2007.
Last year, Poore competed individually in the event, but IU coach Ron Helmer said running alone in cross country can be no fun.
“I think for people that care about their team, they wish everyone was there, but you make it the best you can,” Helmer said. “I think it plays with your head a little bit when you are out on the course and you see other teams warming up and you’re warming up by yourself.”
Entering nationals, five Hoosiers finished in the top 25 and earned All-Region honors the last time out at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. Poore, sophomore Andy Bayer and junior Ben Hubers took 10th, 11th and 12th, respectively.
Poore said the strategy the team used at regionals will be very similar to how it wants to work together Monday.
“We got in a group and sat farther back by racing conservatively, but it ended up working out in our favor,” Poore said. “We’ve been together long enough that we are able to trust that the guy next to us is doing their job. Having that team environment going into the national meet is going to be a lot different knowing that we don’t have to have a perfect race.”
As Helmer has echoed all season, the team’s level of comfort may be the biggest factor to the team’s success, as the team has only placed behind two teams at the events it has competed in — No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Wisconsin.
“They understand that keeping it the same and not getting caught up in the national championship hype is going to be one of the big advantages they have over teams that don’t,” Helmer said. “You have to understand the simplicity of it and how easy it can be once you have put the work in and have a talented group of kids like we have here.”
The team will keep the same travel schedule as it will stay overnight in Terre Haute, but Poore said the track there has already become a “home away from home” for many of the IU runners.
“Myself and a lot of the guys on the team have had a lot of success in Terre Haute because the high school state meets were held there,” Poore said. “Zach Mayhew is from there and Desean’s (Turner) former coach is the commentator, too, so there’s a lot of familiarity.”
The familiarity of the course may give the runners a slight advantage, but Poore said one of the biggest motivations will be representing the state of Indiana on its own soil.
“IU wants to be the University in Indiana that all the high school kids want to come to and run, which we have been trying to build,” Poore said. “To be able to now go out and perform, hopefully people in the state will take pride from that.
“At this point, there are only things to gain at nationals.”