IU cross-country has the opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships on Friday at the Great Lakes Regional Tournament.
“We just need to move on to the next race,” IU Coach Ron Helmer said.
The top-two finishers from the meet automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship. There are 31 spots at the NCAA meet available, with 18 of those going to automatic qualifying teams from the nine regionals. The 13 other spots are for at-large teams that are determined by regular season results and by the results from the regional. Helmer said the regional results have the most weight in the selection.
“For a team to qualify for the NCAA meet, you most likely have to finish third in your regional,” Helmer said.
The meet features teams from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. Michigan and Michigan State are the favorites to win both the men and the women’s race, Helmer said.
“After Michigan and Michigan State, I think the regional falls off a bit,” Helmer said. “If Wisconsin would ever put it together, they could be really good as they probably have more talent than anyone. Eastern Michigan won the MAC conference and they are a good team as well.”
In last year’s regional, the men finished fourth as Wisconsin won the race. On the women’s side, the Hoosiers finished seventh and Michigan State won the race. IU’s top seven runners from the Big Ten Championship will compete in the regional meet.
Helmer said he is confident in his runners and they are extremely composed and relaxed coming into the meet after what he called a strong few weeks of practices.
The women are coming off of a disappointing Big Ten meet where they finished seventh.
“They need to run closer to what their talent is,” Helmer said. “They are so young and so inexperienced. Out of the seven that are running, only two have ever competed at regionals. They are not racing at the level that their workouts, their preparation and their talent suggests that they would.”
Helmer said the women’s race is another chance to take a step toward next year and allow the freshman to gain experience.
For the men, qualifying for the national meet is of great importance to them, Helmer said. In their last meet, the Hoosier men finished fourth in the Big Ten Championship with redshirt senior Rorey Hunter and redshirt junior Jason Crist taking home First Team All-Big Ten honors. The Hoosiers are the second-ranked team in the Great Lakes Regiona, just behind No. 1 Michigan.
“We need to get our four and five runners closer to where they should be,” Helmer said. “Our first three are really good. Carl Smith at four was very good at the Big Ten race, but he could be better. I expect us to have a smaller gap and for us to pack it up better.”