The IU men’s and women’s cross country teams will kick off their seasons with the Indiana Open at 9:20 a.m. Saturday at the IU Championship Cross Country Course.
According to IU Coach Ron Helmer, Saturday’s meet will be used as more of a workout for the team.
The only other school outside of IU expected to attend is Wabash. Saturday’s race will be a no scoring event, and Helmer said it is not one of Indiana’s high-scale races.
“We are going to run an honest pace, but what I would like to see is nine, 10 or 11 guys still together with a mile to go,” Helmer said. “But I want it to be an honest enough pace where some of those people within that 11 or 12 have to extend themselves pretty significantly to keep with the group.”
The women will be running a five kilometer race, while the No. 20 ranked men’s team will be running eight kilometers. The men’s team lost two All-Americans in Andy Bayer and Zach Mayhew due to graduation.
Junior Nolan Fife said with the loss of those two, the team lost a lot of leadership.
“We lost a lot of fire power this last year with Andy and Zach up front leading the team with their leadership roles,” he said.
Although IU’s team lost two significant runners, it still has five returners who competed for Indiana in the NCAA National Championships last year. Juniors Evan Esselink and JR Ricker, sophomores Matt Schwartzer and Owen Skeete and senior Robby Nierman are all returning from last year’s qualifying 2012 Championships team.
“What we’re really looking to do this year is being able to form a strong pack and move our pack up further than it was last year,” Fife said.
Last year’s NCAA Championships individual qualifier junior Kelsey Duerksen will be returning for the women’s team. Senior Erica Ridderman and junior Molly Winters will also be returning for the women. Senior Samantha Ginther will be back on the cross country course once again on Saturday after sitting last year’s season out due to injuries.
“I think we’ll just kind of relax for the first half of the race and then get going after that,” Ginther said.
“It’s still so early, and we’re training and we’re tired, but we still need to get out on the grass and run a little bit,” Helmer said.
Follow cross country reporter Frank Bonner on Twitter @Frank_Money1.