The IU men and women’s cross country teams will travel on Friday to the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terra Haute to take on the rest of the state at the Indiana Intercollegiate meet.
After a second-place finish last year, the men will come back to try to win the meet for the fourth time in the past five years.
Defending NCAA Champion and All-American Andy Bayer and fellow senior Zach Mayhew did not race at last weekend’s Indiana Open and will sit out again this week.
Sophomore Evan Esselink, who won the Indiana Open 8K in 25:32.6, will run for the men along with junior Robby Nierman and sophomore JR Ricker.
“I can’t really see anyone beating us,” Esselink said. “I just don’t think it’s even going to be a contest...I think we’re all in a good position right now.”
The second meet at intercollegiates will also provide the chance to see the underclassmen, like Esselink and Ricker, and decide who will be in the top seven for the team.
After last season, the Hoosier cross country lost five of their top seven including Ben Hubers, De’Sean Turner, Andrew Poore and Andy Weatherford.
While they have lost so much, runners on the team said they believe this team can still achieve greatness.
“I don’t like to hear from people that IU lost five of their top guys,” Esselink said. “We’re older now, and our team is, I think, is stronger than last year. I think a lot of people are in for a surprise.”
Helmer also said he thinks the men’s team will be just as good as last year, and that he believes this is one of the most motivated teams he’s ever coached.
“We’ve got eight to 10 candidates for the spots,” Helmer said. “They’re as motivated as any group I’ve had to prove themselves and take their turn.”
The Hoosier women are looking to bring in their fourth consecutive win at intercollegiate.
The women will look to overcome the loss of senior Samantha Ginther who is hampered with an injury.
“We can beat a lot of people, but we can’t beat the people that matter in order to put ourselves at the national level,” Helmer said. “What I know is that we keep putting things in place and we keep working. We’ve got a good number of girls now who have been training for three to four years, and it’s time for them to collectively start to believe in themselves.”
Indiana Open winner and sophomore Kelsey Duerkson will look to repeat this week along with help from both graduate student Molly Hirt and sophomore Molly Winters.