The IU men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete in their final regular season event today when they host the Hoosier Invitational.
The men’s team comes off a third-place finish in the Big Ten Championship last weekend while the women finished eighth at the meet.
The performance was highlighted by senior Zach Mayhew’s victory in the men’s race, but the top runners for IU won’t compete this weekend.
“What we do with this meet is make it a season-culminating meet for those athletes not in our top seven,” IU Coach Ron Helmer said. “We have some very good athletes who are young or redshirted or developing who need a meet to finish their year off.”
This competition is also different in regard to how it is scored. Unlike most events in which the Hoosiers have competed, this weekend will offer no team scores, just individual performances.
This is to allow redshirted runners the opportunity to compete in the event while following NCAA regulations.
Despite the lack of team scoring at the event, Helmer said he expects his runners to compete well in Bloomington.
“It’s fun to run our home course because it’s a great traditional cross country course,” Helmer said. “It’s the same course that greats like Bob Kennedy ran on, so it’s a great way to go back in time and connect with a lot of those individuals who hold an esteemed place in our history.”
However, Helmer said he doesn’t think running at home gives his squads any competitive edge with the competition.
Friday will offer a glimpse of the not-so-distant future of IU cross country. Since most regular season meets only allow seven runners per school per event, many of IU’s and other schools’ younger athletes who might not have made the top seven this year will have a chance to prove their merit.
“For those younger kids, to be able to have a week to get their legs some rest and point towards a hard effort out on the course is good,” Helmer said. “Our feeling is anything we can do to take a step forward this weekend just starts us at a different place competitively next fall. The future is a big part of this meet.”
Because this meet serves as a source of closure for runners who won’t compete in the postseason, Helmer said he expects his runners to compete hard, especially since they won’t be competing for about 10 months.
“Some of them are tired,” Helmer said. “Some are still in the midst of some high-level training that their bodies are still adjusting to, but I want them to act like it matters. Competing hard and getting ourselves ready on race day is what we need to be about, and we will go out and get that done.”