The IU women’s distance medley relay team is currently ranked second in the nation behind only Oregon and will travel to College Station, Texas, this weekend for the 2017 Indoor NCAA Championships and a chance to become the fastest team in the country.
Sophomores Taylor Williams and Katherine Receveur, senior Olivia Hippensteel and junior Brenna Calder have the opportunity to return to Bloomington as track and field All-Americans if they place in the top eight spots at the meet.
There are 12 teams total in the distance medley relay race at the NCAA Championships, and IU Coach Ron Helmer said there is not much separating them.
“The teams ranked second through 12th are separated by six seconds of running,” Helmer said. “It’s great to be ranked second, but we know we are going to have to run really well to beat those other teams because they are just seconds behind us.”
Before the season began, the relay team members said they thought making the national meet was only a slight possibility, but Calder, who runs the opening 1,200-meter leg, said their motivation has carried them to this point.
“We ran a really fast time right away in the beginning of the season, and I knew we could even improve on that,” Calder said. “So that was really when I realized we as a team could definitely make NCAAs.”
When it comes to running individually or as part of a relay, all of the DMR members said they prefer running with their teammates. Hippensteel said being able to help a teammate do well by doing well herself makes it more enjoyable.
“When you are running for your teammates it’s really special because there is always an underlying reason why you are doing it — to keep pushing through because you care about these people,” Hippensteel said. “It means a lot to me to do it for them.”
The DMR will take place Friday. Calder will start the race with 1,200-meter, and she will be followed by Williams, who will run the 400-meter. Williams will hand the baton to Hippensteel, who will handle the 800-meter leg, and Receveur will finish the last mile of the race as the anchor.
Receveur, the 5K Big Ten Champion, will also run individually in the 3,000-meter event, where she currently has the fourth-fastest mark in the NCAA this season. The women’s 3,000-meter will be run Saturday evening.
As someone who has been watching the team all season, Helmer said he is confident the Hoosiers will have success even against such a high level of competition.
“They have an opportunity to run for the win but regardless if we come in eighth place or above, we will be coming home with four All-Americans, which we will proudly take,” Helmer said. “But we do have the opportunity in both events to mix it up with the leaders and win.”
Helmer said he’s not only excited to see what the girls can do this weekend but also what they can do going forward in their track careers.
“Except for Olivia, this whole group is coming back for at least another year, and it’s really good to get this group into that meet with the opportunity to score really well and be relevant at the national level,” Helmer said.