Indiana Daily Student

Cross country's Reilly, Behnke lead Hoosiers to Indiana Open victories

Men's and Women's Cross Country, IU Open, 09/06/14_Mike Dickbernd
Men's and Women's Cross Country, IU Open, 09/06/14_Mike Dickbernd

Kieran Reilly admits he was a little “soft” last year.

IU Coach Ron Helmer said the redshirt freshman’s talent was undeniable. But the one thing holding him back in races was his mental toughness — his ability to push through the pain on long runs.

In training leading up to Saturday’s Indiana Open, Helmer said Reilly found what he was missing.

After a grueling practice run, Helmer said Reilly emerged “looking like a million bucks.”

And in Saturday’s men’s 8-kilometer race at the Indiana Open, Reilly ran like it. His race-winning time of 25:43.5 led the Hoosiers to a victory, narrowly edging out second-place finisher senior Evan Esselink by 0.8 seconds.

“I actually predicted that one,” Helmer said. “I felt like given how he’s been training that he probably would be the guy at the end that was still running the hardest, and that proved to be true.”

Reilly, a native of Dover, Kent, in the United Kingdom, agreed with Helmer. After redshirting cross country last season, he worked in training to become stronger mentally so he could find an extra gear when he needed it.

He said he came into Saturday’s race without any real expectations but left the IU course feeling pleased with the progress he’s made.

“I couldn’t make myself hurt in a way that I needed to before,” Reilly said. “Recently, I thought if I want to go places, I’ve just got to really push myself. Definitely last week in training, I just really stuck at it and stuck in and held on ?today.”

The Hoosier men swept the top-five finishing positions to beat Tennessee Tech 15-57. Senior Nolan Fife rounded out the podium in third followed by freshman Kyle Duvall in fourth and sophomore Jason Crist in fifth.

IU was without a number of Helmer’s top returning runners who sat out nursing injuries.

Despite a slightly altered lineup, Helmer said he was impressed with the Hoosiers’ competitiveness and ability to pick up where the others had left off.

The top five IU finishers were separated by just seven seconds.

“I think it’s incredible, the strength of the team right now,” Reilly said. “Every day we’re going out there and fighting for our place. If you have slight off days, it’s obvious, and that’s just the depth of our team.

“I think it’s a real exciting time for our program right now. I really think we’re going to go places this season.”

Behnke continues 5K success

For sophomore Amanda Behnke, there’s just something about 5-kilometer races.

The St. Louis native came to Bloomington wanting to run the 1,500-meter in track but said she didn’t have the foot speed to compete at a high level.

In training, she discovered her skillset was better suited for the 5K races.

She said it was a better balance between needing endurance while still being short enough to take advantage of her sprinting background, so she began focusing more on it.

The move paid off.

Behnke led the Hoosier women to a sweeping victory in the Indiana Open women’s 5K on Saturday with a race-winning time of 18:27.9.

“It was great to get out there,” Behnke said. “It was definitely a big confidence booster for me and for our team to see us all kind of come together and push each other.”

The Indiana Open win is the latest in a line of top-finishing performances in 5K races for Behnke.

She ran a 16:28.83 in the 5K at the Stanford Invitational last year, the 10th fastest time in school history.

She qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary Round for the 5K and aims to improve on those times this season.

“She’s a grinder,” Helmer said of Behnke. “She’s just a tough, tough girl who does her work. She’s talented enough that if you combine her talent with her willingness to do the work and her toughness when it comes to the race, then good things are going to happen.”

Behnke was followed in third place overall (second in team scoring) by freshman Brittany Neeley, who finished 4.6 seconds behind.

Sophomore Chanli Mundy was fourth overall followed by sophomore Bethany Neeley and freshman Madison Stenger, who rounded out the scoring for the Hoosiers, beating Tennessee Tech ?15-60.

Helmer said he doesn’t think anyone on the team has established themselves as a runner who can regularly post a low number in some of the more competitive meets.

Despite that, he said he has been telling his female runners that the team’s depth could go a long way toward having program success.

“We have the potential to do really good at four or five,” Helmer said, referring to the fourth- and fifth-place scorers for the team.

“And if that’s the case, then those people at four, five, six, seven and eight have a real big job. They have a great opportunity to make us a great team. We have the ability because of the depth that we’re starting to show to really be powerful back at four and five so that’s what we want to work on there.”

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