After three meets to open the season, the men’s and women’s cross country teams will face their first test on the national level as they head to Louisville, Ky., and Madison, Wis., for Pre-Nationals and the adidas Invitational, respectively, this weekend.
With the Pre-Nationals meet Saturday and the adidas Invitational on Friday, IU Coach Ron Helmer will split up his teams, sending a different group to each event.
The varsity men and women will head to Louisville, Ky., to gain experience against national teams and see where they place in the early season test, with the rest of the team headed to Wisconsin to face upward of 45 teams for each race.
For the men’s team, seniors Zach Mayhew and Andy Bayer, who respectively placed second and third in September’s Rim Rock Farm Collegiate Classic in Lawrence, Kan., will lead the team to the Pre-Nationals crew, which is currently ranked No. 26 in the nation. The crew has dropped 15 spots since the last poll was taken.
Junior Robby Nierman, graduate student Adam Behnke and freshman Matt Schwartzer, the remaining members of the Hoosiers’ top five from Rim Rock, will join the two seniors to try to obtain the most points at the meet.
On the women’s side, senior Caitlin Engel and sophomore Kelsey Duerksen will look to have a good showing as the team attempts to make it to its first national championship meet since 2009.
Engel and Duerkson, who finished within four seconds of each other at Rim Rock, said they hope to once again take low numbers at the Pre-Nationals in an effort to improve upon the team’s 35th-place finish at the meet last year.
Senior Arianne Raby, graduate student Molly Hirt and junior Erica Ridderman are looking to reprise their spots in the top five from Rim Rock.
The men will run in an 8k course, which differs from the 10k they will run at nationals, while the women will run a 6k course.
Hoosiers running in the adidas Invitational in Madison will also face competition from some of the best teams in the nation.
The men’s team will face ranked teams such as No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 8 Stanford and No. 24 Michigan, while the women will face stiff competition from No. 2 Arizona, No. 8 Michigan and No. 10 Michigan State.
— Brian Walsh