It’s transition time for the IU cross-country team, IU Coach Ron Helmer said.
IU gets into the heart of its schedule Saturday as the runners compete in the Princeton Interregional this weekend against tougher competition than they’ve seen so far this season.
There will be four nationally ranked women’s teams at the meet, while there will be three nationally ranked teams on the men’s side, including the Hoosiers.
The teams competing are Columbia, Duke, Duquesne, Monmouth, Princeton, Providence, St. John’s, North Carolina, Villanova, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and William & Mary.
This meet is the Hoosiers’ first out-of-state meet of the year.
“We use this weekend meet to see a different part of the country each year,” Helmer said.
In the past few years, IU has run at the tracks at University of Washington, Lehigh, Kansas and Oklahoma State.
The meet falls in the middle, between the early season meets where IU looked just to race and the highly competitive national and conference meets, Helmer said.
“This is a transition time for us as we start to get sharp and find out where we are as a team,” he said.
Like in previous meets, Helmer said he wants to see his team run as a pack because he believes it is deep and fit enough to do so two-thirds of the race.
“Running as a pack brings the runners comfort and keeps them relaxed until they break away for that last third,” he said.
That strategy helped the women’s team at its last meet, the Indiana Intercollegiates, where it swept the leaderboard.
Helmer called the Princeton Interregional a key outing for the women’s team as it could be a positive step forward for it, especially with how young the runners are.
“Half of the 12 women we are bringing are either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen,” Helmer said. “I want to see how they respond to this challenge and how they will maintain their composure in this difficult environment.”
Helmer noted the team’s top seven or eight women runners are interchangeable and wouldn’t be surprised by any result Saturday.
The men struggled at Intercollegiates, finishing third behind IUPUI and Indiana State, a disappointing result for the then-ranked No. 10 team in the nation. After that finish, it dropped to 19th.
Even though it had a rough outing, Helmer said he still believes in the team.
“They are continuing to grow with a sense of urgency,” Helmer said. “They aren’t just going to quit and they are continuing to develop into the team they want to be.”
Helmer said the team’s struggle might be because it hasn’t been training extremely hard and putting in tiring work preparing for the track season. That said, he said he believes that in the next few weeks the team will get its legs back and sharpen up its performance.
Redshirt senior Rorey Hunter had been under the weather, but now is feeling better and ready to run well, Helmer said. He said he has seen strong performances in practice from both redshirt junior Jason Crist and redshirt sophomore Kyle Duvall.
“We can feel it coming,” Helmer said. “We are ready for a good meet.”