It may not have as much prominence as the Big Ten Championships or the NCAA Regional, but for runners like redshirt freshman JR Ricker, Friday’s race looms large.
That’s because the winner of the Hoosier Invitational, which begins at 3:30 p.m. at the IU cross country course, will earn the seventh and final spot in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 12.
IU Coach Ron Helmer said the idea was implemented to foster competition and reward runners who have worked hard and showed steady progress.
“I want to make it about competition,” Helmer said. “They like it. Everybody needs a season-culminating meet, otherwise you have few opportunities. We did it last year, and they really got ready for it and did a great job with it.”
Helmer said it’s up to the younger runners to carry the torch since the veteran-laden group at the top that won’t be around much longer.
“I’m looking forward to watching them because what we need to do is make sure that we become known for our abilities and line-up and race no matter what the circumstances,” Helmer said. “We still need to be able to race well when we’re given that opportunity, so I want to see who’s willing to do that.”
Ricker is among the competitors vying for a chance to race again next weekend. The Cathedral High School graduate said he is ready to prove himself.
“I’m very excited,” Ricker said. “My mindset is to try and win it so I can get into the mindset of running with the older guys, the faster guys. It’s about time to start really competing and mix myself in with the big dogs.”