Every team has young athletes somewhere on its roster, as well as experienced veterans to balance out the youth. Sometimes new talent rises to the occasion and exceeds expectations.
The IU women’s cross country team has both of these features on their squad, except they have more youth than they bargained for.
Compiled of mostly freshmen and sophomores, IU Coach Ron Helmer’s team displays 16 underclassmen and just five upperclassmen this season. Of the five upperclassmen, just three of those are seniors.
“Getting the young runners more experience is going to be a huge help and will be important if we’re going to be successful,” Helmer said.
Amanda Behnke, Olivia Hippensteel and Chanli Mundy all headline the 2017 senior class for Indiana and are followed by juniors Corinne Cominator and Kellie Davis.
Behnke is the leader of the team that is filled with talented underclassmen, but has been out with an injury to start the season. Behnke’s return seems more likely to be in either the Rim Rock Farm Classic on Oct. 1 in Kansas or the Bradley Classic on Oct. 14 in Peoria, Illinois.
“We have to get Amanda back,” Helmer said. “I’m pretty confident she will be in our top five when we get around to championship time in November. If she can get in there and be a stabilizing force with a bunch of young girls, I think it’s really important for our team”
The rest of the roster is compiled with eight freshmen and eight sophomores, but experience isn’t everything. In their first meet of the season, the Hoosiers had seven runners finish in the top 10, starting the season off strong.
It’s good to have promising youth. Losing just one runner this offseason, the Hoosiers are looking forward to building momentum and team chemistry.
“The women’s team is almost all freshmen and sophomores,” Helmer said. “If we can coach and have the team come together to develop chemistry and trust in one another, then that’s what I’m really looking forward to.”
Helmer said he is really looking forward to developing the team this year and building on last season as well. He says he wants to watch them develop and grow as a unit, and if it is successful, they have a good shot during nationals.
All freshmen run unattached at the beginning of the season so they can be evaluated further by the coaches, and to see who needs to be redshirted. Two young runners caught the eye of Helmer after the first meet, and he said he has made a decision of who will dress throughout the season.
Sophomore Brenna Calder and freshman Katherine Free will both compete this season and run with the team. Calder finished first at the Indiana University Open with Free placing fifth. Both runners have shown their potential and should be a key part of the top five for the Hoosiers.
“Having them two step up gives us more depth, and that is what’s going to be the most important part to our team this year,” Helmer said.
Young runners must step up due to the limited number of upperclassmen and two girls have shown leadership skills that Helmer has noticed.
Calder and teammate Katherine Receveur are taking over leadership roles and are doing a really good job of setting a good example, according to Helmer. Not only have they shown their promise as runners, they have also become role models for the rest of the team.
“They’re running at the front, and they have experience,” Helmer said, “They have leadership positions on the team and I think they’re doing a really good job.”