Facing a critical point in its season, the IU cross-country team has two meets this weekend — just weeks before the beginning of its championship-level meets.
The team splits in two this weekend as half the team heads to Madison, Wisconsin, for the Adidas Invitational on Friday and the other half goes to Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday for the Pre-Nationals Meet.
The top six runners for both men and women’s teams are going to the Adidas Invitational, one of the premier races in the nation, according to IU Coach Ron Helmer.
“It’s the best meet of the year — better than the NCAA Championships,” Helmer said. “You have more teams running at a high level this time of the year as many teams get ready for October rather than November.”
Helmer added that 20 of the top 25 women’s teams in the country are running, while 16 or 17 of the top men’s teams in the country are running.
“We need to beat some ranked teams to get into the national meet,” redshirt sophomore Madison Stenger said. “We beat William & Mary in our last race (the Princeton Interregional), and that let us know we are ready to compete at that level.”
Helmer said from the women’s team, he is taking the top-five finishers from the Princeton meet, along with the seventh place finisher, freshman Haley Harris. Harris finished first at the Indiana Intercollegiate meet.
The others runners are redshirt junior Amanda Behnke, redshirt sophomore Madison Stenger, junior Chanli Mundy, freshman Maggie Allen and redshirt senior Brianna Johnson.
On the men’s side, the top six runners from the Princeton Interregional meet are running in the Adidas Invitational. Those include redshirt sophomores Kyle Duvall and Jeremy Coughler, redshirt juniors Jason Crist and Mark Chandler and redshirt seniors Rorey Hunter and Owen Skeet.
At Pre-Nationals, Coach Helmer said though it is not their top runners competing it’s still an important meet.
“We need to find one or two people who are ready to step up and help those top six runners,” Helmer said.
He noted on the men’s side he is sending runners to Pre-Nationals that are just waiting to break out and are almost ready after having some strong races.
“We are hoping that when we change up the pecking order and they are not pacing themselves off their teammates who always beat them that they will be free to have one of those breakout races,” Helmer said.
Helmer said he is confident in his team heading into the races after last Friday’s practice was the best he has seen from the team all year.
“We just need to take another step forward this weekend,” Helmer said. “We need to go out and know we are two weeks farther down the road in getting to a place where we are race sharp.”