The IU cross-country teams aren't easing into their final meet before the Big Ten Championships.
As the Hoosiers prepare for the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, they are gearing up for one of the most prestigious races in the country this weekend. There will be many ranked opponents competing against IU, giving the Hoosiers the best competition they’ve seen all year.
Helmer said there could be up to 23 or 24 of the top-30 teams in the country racing Friday. That includes his own squads, as the women’s team currently sits at No. 14, while the men’s team is No. 21.
“The competition is going to be incredible,” Helmer said. “It’s going to be most of the best teams in the country and probably a fairly humbling weekend for a lot of people.”
The women’s team is riding high as it sits at its best national ranking in program history and is coming off a meet in which its top runner, junior Katherine Receveur, broke the women’s 6k record at the IU cross-country course with a time of 20:14.08 Sept. 30 at the Sam Bell Invitational in Bloomington.
Friday’s race will be the first true test for the rising women’s squad to see where it stacks up against the best teams in the country.
“Coach Helmer has said to us that we don’t have to go out there and have a great race from everyone but just have solid races across the board,” junior Brenna Calder said. “That’s kind of comforting in the fact that nobody has to go out there and do anything they haven’t done yet. We just need to go out and execute the race and race like we have been all year.”
Receveur will most likely be out in front for the Hoosiers competing for one of the top overall spots. Helmer says, however, that’s when the runners next in line such as Calder and junior Maggie Allen will become even more important to their team. They’ll be asked to lead that second group of runners for the Hoosiers.
“Katherine has her plan and that’s a little different because she can run with most of the best people in the country,” Helmer said. “Maggie has her plan because she likes to get out and get going, and that’s what works for her, and Brenna sort of takes care of that next group and sets them up in a good spot.”
As for the men’s team, this weekend’s meet will be important as it prepares for the Big Ten Cross-Country Championship in two weeks. Many of the top competitors in the conference will race, including the host school No. 28 Wisconsin.
“In this meet, we want to get points in order to make it to NCAAs,” freshman Cooper Williams said. “This is a meet we are really wanting to hit hard. There will be a lot of Big Ten schools there, but we also want to beat teams from other regionals in order to get more points.”
The men’s team has tried to run in groups and push each other through races all year. It’s a strategy that has proven to be effective, but Helmer said he would like to close the gap between his fourth and fifth runners.
“Bryce Millar was hurt for a little while, and he’s looking much better now,” Helmer said. “I think what’s going to happen is he’s going to put himself back in the middle of that front group. In our last meet, from our one through five runners not including Bryce, we had around a 25-second spread. If Bryce puts himself in the middle of that, now we have six guys in that spread, and I think that’ll get us to where we need to be.”
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