Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams received bids to compete in the NCAA Championships on Saturday in Terra Haute. IU Coach Ron Helmer said winning was not the main goal for the Hoosiers in the regional race.
Helmer said he did not want the men’s team to exhaust themselves by trying to win the regional.
He wanted to make sure their legs were fresh enough to compete well in the NCAA Championships.
“I think we came out of the Regional race really well,” Helmer said. “I’m very optimistic that we recovered well and we’ll be just fine with their second 10k in eight days.”
After missing last year’s season because of an injury, senior Samantha Ginther is in her final year wearing an IU cross country uniform. Although the entire women’s team has not qualified for the national meet since the 2009 season, Ginther competed as an individual qualifier two seasons ago. This year Ginther said the women’s team has the potential to finish in the top 20.
“I think we’re definitely capable of that, and I think we just need to all come together and have good races on the same day for once,” Ginther said.
The men’s team is expecting to place in the top 10 Saturday. Senior Robby Nierman will help lead the way for the Hoosiers in hopes of a top 10 finish. Neirman competed in the NCAA Championships last year. He was the second Hoosier to cross, finishing the 10-kilometer race in 31 minutes and 56 seconds. The men’s team placed 18th overall.
“This year I really think we can get top 10. On a good day, we could be on the podium,” Nierman said.
The NCAA Championships will start with the men’s race at noon. Following the men’s 10-kilometer race will be the women’s 8-kilometer race. The two races will be on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. There will be a total of three Big Ten schools competing in the men’s race and six Big Ten schools in the women’s race.
“Nationals is always pretty crazy,” Neirman said. “Some teams will do lights out, and some teams will just kind of blow up. It all depends on the day, but I really believe in our team.”
Follow cross country reporter Frank Bonner on Twitter @Frank_Bonner1.