The No. 24 ranked men’s cross country team will travel with the No. 21 women’s cross country team Sunday to West Lafayette to race in the Big Ten Championships.
The men will compete against two ranked opponents: No. 7 Wisconsin, the defending champion, and No. 16 Michigan.
The women will compete against five teams ranked in the top 30; No. 6 Michigan State, No. 14 Michigan and No. 15 Minnesota are the three teams ranked higher than IU.
IU Coach Ron Helmer has confidence in his team’s preparation for this
“Workout wise, I would be hard pressed to think that there are too many teams that are a whole lot better than we are on that level,” Helmer said. “In terms of preparation I would be hard pressed to think that there are too many teams that are better than we are there.”
This is the first time the women’s team has been ranked since the 2010 season, and the Hoosiers’ No. 21 ranking is the highest since 2004. Junior Kelsey Duerksen, who has been named Runner of the Week twice this season, has been a major factor in the team’s success this year.
“We are expected to get about fourth place with our national ranking,” Duerksen said.
Helmer said the top seven for the men has not yet been decided. The 12 runners that could be in the top seven have been cut down to nine. On paper, the men’s team is expected to place third, sitting behind Wisconsin and Michigan.
However, junior Evan Esslink said he believes the Hoosiers have the potential to compete well against their competition.
“Michigan and Wisconsin are going to be our main competition, but we have a deeper team than they do,” Esslink said.
According to Esslink, the top six runners last season were all seniors, which means this year’s Big Ten Championships will have a number of new faces crossing the finish line in the top ten.
“I just need everybody to put together a race that’s at the higher end of what range we would expect them to be able to race at giving their workouts,” Helmer said. “If we can do that we should be one of the top three teams in some order or another.”
Follow reporter Frank Bonner on Twitter @Frank_Bonner1.