Spectators saw a lot of red jerseys at the IU Championship Cross-Country Course for the IU Open on Sept. 2.
Along with IU’s cream and crimson, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Miami (OH) all displayed different shades of red during the meet.
IU's opponents also saw a sea of red as the Hoosiers and Coach Ron Helmer utilized a pack mentality during the race. Staying in groups and working together ended up being a successful strategy for both the men's and women's teams, as each team ran away with big season-opening victories.
“I thought everybody did a great job of executing what we asked them to do,” Helmer said. “When you work together, you make each other better. To have the team you want to have, you have to make each other better, and it’s good to do that in the first race of year.”
In the men’s 8k, IU dominated by having its runners stick together in a group early on. The Hoosiers finished with the top four individuals and a team score of 21. Minnesota and Miami were the next closest with 50 and 60 points.
Sophomore Ben Veatch led the way and won the meet with a time of 24:54.4, while sophomore Kyle Mau, junior Kyle Burks and freshman Cooper Williams rounded out the top four. Junior Joe Murphy finished up the scoring with an 11th place finish.
“This was a much different race than last year," Williams said. "We had some really good schools from the Big Ten show up so I was coming in expecting it to be a much faster race, and it definitely was. I don’t know if I came in expecting us to get the top four spots, but it was a nice surprise.”
Helmer was impressed with the men’s team as well. With a longer race that develops slower than the women’s contest, it was even more important to stick to his group strategy.
“I always say the men’s race is kind of a thing of art,” Helmer said. “Sometimes the women’s race will go by with a blur, so it’s kind of a beautiful thing to watch people work together and work their way up like we did today.”
In the women's 5k, although the Hoosiers were a bit more spread out compared to their male counterparts, they were still able to hold on to a victory. IU finished with 40 points, holding off Minnesota with 51 and Ohio State with 62.
Juniors Maggie Allen and Brenna Calder were the standouts for the Hoosiers with second and third-place finishes.
Allen ran a time of 17:40.9 and was just edged out by Wisconsin’s Amy Davis, who ran a time of 17:39.9, for the top individual spot. Sophomore Lexa Barrott finished eighth, junior Haley Harris finished ninth and sophomore Kelsey Harris ended up 18th to complete the scoring for IU.
“Before the race, Coach Helmer told us this is our home course, and we should know that it’s one where if we let a pack get ahead of us late, it will come back to hurt us,” Barrott said. “Through the first 2k, we were just kind of sitting back and waiting. By the end, we were all able to close hard and catch most of the girls that were ahead of us.”
For Helmer, the women’s race exemplified how well each team executed its strategies during the first race of the year.
“I thought they executed really well," Helmer said. "We wanted to be conservative early on and run in groups as much as we could, and they did a really nice job of working together. They all timed out when they raced to the end, and they actually executed much better than I even expected for the first time out this year.”
IU was also short-handed for the meet, as junior Katherine Receveur and sophomore Bryce Millar both sat out the meet for training purposes.
Although Helmer said the two wins were nice, Helmer still stressed the real importance of the race, which was training for later meets in the season against Big Ten opposition.
“We realize some teams are coming back from camp and didn’t run their best runners,” Helmer said. “What we’re going to get excited about is the way our kids executed and the times they ran. I think we have the potential to be a really solid team that can mix it up with great teams.”
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