You wouldn’t know it by looking at the last couple of race results from the Hoosier cross country teams, but they’re rested, and they’re ready.
After going with split squads in the Pre-Nationals and adidas Invitational, the cross country teams will be whole again when they chase a Big Ten crown Sunday at the Big Ten Championships in Champaign, Ill.
IU Coach Ron Helmer said the team’s mentality hasn’t changed in the week leading to this race, but the magnitude has. The men’s 8K and women’s 6K will be run like normal races.
“I don’t think there’s anyone particularly more focused or more into it, but maybe more relaxed and more together, which is where they need to be,” Helmer said. “They’ve been pretty dialed in and focused all year long.”
The men finished second in last year’s championship, falling to Wisconsin, which won its 12th consecutive Big Ten Championships title.
IU junior Andy Bayer led the way for the Hoosiers, placing second overall. Bayer was able to learn from last year’s experience and plans to make use of it to help his team.
“With a little more patience, I probably could have won it last year,” he said. “Just from that, I know when I need to make a move and when I don’t. The individual
championship isn’t as important to me. We want to make sure we’re winning the team race.”
Winning is something the No. 7 Hoosiers said they know they can do.
“With everyone back and together I think it can be a really different story,” Bayer said. “Everyone is ready to go surprise some people.”
The women also proclaim themselves ready after finishing fifth last year. They are coming off two disappointing finishes, but Helmer said he expects a bounce-back
“The reason I wasn’t thrilled was because of what I perceive to be a big gap between their preparation and work level and their racing level,” he said. “There’s certainly a confidence and understanding that they’re much better than what they’ve been up to this point, so I’m pretty confident we’ll see a nice improvement out of them.”
Junior Samantha Ginther, who finished 32nd overall in the 2010 Big Ten Championships, agreed with Helmer’s sentiment.
“We’re excited to redeem ourselves,” she said. “I expect us to go out and race as a team, compete well and be in competition for the championship.”
The Hoosiers have spent the last few weeks preparing for the championship season. They trained themselves to the point of wearing down, have tapered off the mileage and intensity of workouts recently and believe they are hitting their stride at the right time.
“We definitely have pulled back enough and freshened up enough that there’s bounce in (our) legs,” Helmer said. “We’re much closer to Wisconsin than what our results this year have shown. Wisconsin will know that we’re around.”