IU Coach Ron Helmer and the cross country team will travel Friday to Madison, Wis., to compete in the Great Lakes Regional. The University of Wisconsin will have the race on their Thomas Zimmer Championships Cross Country Course.
The first four runners to cross the finish line will automatically advance to the NCAA Championship Race. The top two teams will automatically advance their entire team to the NCAA Championships. The teams not in the top two will be selected to advance.
“We just need a solid performance, I’m not really worried about if we win the regional or not or even if we’re in the top two,” Helmer said. “I can’t put all my eggs in the regional basket and give up my chance to be good at the national meet.”
The men’s team is ranked No. 1 in the region, and the women’s team is ranked at No. 6. The men’s team has been able to qualify their entire team for the NCAA Championship for three consecutive years.
However, the women’s team has not advanced their full team since 2009. Although the men’s team is ranked No. 1, Helmer is still aware of the quality of competition that will be there.
“I still think Wisconsin is pretty good at home, and Michigan is really good over 10,000 meters,” Helmer said.
Sophomore Matt Schwartzer ran in the Regional race last year as a true freshman. He finished in 40th place and ran the 10-kilometer race in 32 minutes and 12 seconds.
Freshman Amanda Behnke will be running in her first regional race this year. Behnke was redshirted last season. Despite the implications of the race, Behnke said the team did not train any differently for this weekend.
“We’ve just been doing what we’ve been doing all along,” Behnke said. “All the other races have been going just fine, so we keep the training the same.”
Prior to the Great Lakes Regional was the Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin had won the Big Ten Championship for 14 consecutive years before this year.
The Hoosiers were able to end their streak by winning for the first time in 33 years.
The Hoosiers will compete against Wisconsin once again on Friday. Schwartzer said they are even more prepared than they were for the Big Ten Championship.
“Our workouts haven’t been as hard as they were in the beginning of the season, but we all run lots of miles, and we can hold our fitness pretty well,” Schwartzer said.
The men’s race will start their race at 1 p.m. Friday, while the women’s race start time is scheduled at 2:15 p.m. The men will be running a 10-kilometer race, while the women will be running 6 kilometers.
Follow reporter Frank Bonner on Twitter @Frank_Bonner1.