The IU men’s cross country team and sophomore women’s runner Kelsey Duerksen will compete in the NCAA Championship meet Nov. 17. The meet will be in Louisville, Ky., at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park and conclude the 2012 cross country season.
The men’s team will compete without senior Andy Bayer after he finished last weekend’s regional qualifier in fourth place.
“He’s too good of an athlete to send him out there for another race and come out with another setback,” IU Coach Ron Helmer said. “So we won’t have him for the national meet, which is a huge blow because he’s really good.”
Freshman Owen Skeete, who finished third at the Hoosier Invitational earlier this year, is replacing Bayer.
The Hoosiers placed seventh in 2010 and 2011 and will fight to improve that mark this weekend. Senior Zach Mayhew leads a relatively inexperienced lineup that includes two seniors, one junior, two sophomores and two freshmen.
“Most of these guys have never been to a national meet of any kind,” Helmer said. “But they’ve met the challenge and handled it pretty well up to this point. We just need to make sure that they can stay composed and give themselves a chance to do something special relative to their preparation and experience that they have.”
After winning the Big Ten individual crown and finishing second in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet, Mayhew looks to improve upon a 64th place finish in last year’s national meet.
“The challenge is to get Zach Mayhew an All-American certificate and get him as high up there as we possibly can,” Helmer said. “He’s demonstrated all year long that he’s ready to have a great national meet.”
In the women’s race, Duerksen became the second athlete to compete nationally for the Hoosiers. She qualified as an individual by finishing 14th at the regional meet.
This time she won’t have the benefit of running knowing her teammates are out there with her.
“It’s hard to compete as an individual when you’re used to having teammates out there,” Helmer said. “Most of our athletes are very into being a part of a team and helping their team accomplish things.”
She has never competed in a national meet of any kind. Helmer said gaining that experience and competing well at this elite level is another goal for this weekend.
“We need to give ourselves a chance to beat some people,” Helmer said. “Overall, in both races, we are very young and inexperienced, but we still feel we can go out and represent ourselves positively as a team.”