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Katherine Receveur makes history with Big Ten women's cross-country title


Junior Katherine Receveur celebrates as she crosses the finish line at the Big Ten Cross-Country Championship on Oct. 29 at the IU Championship Cross Country Course. IU will compete in the Big Ten Cross-Country Championship this weekend in Nebraska.  Bobby Goddin

Junior Katherine Receveur accomplished something no other IU women’s cross-country runner had in 27 years.

Not since Michelle Dekkers won her third consecutive individual Big Ten title back in 1990 had an IU runner managed to win a women's Big Ten cross-country championship.

That changed on Oct. 29 at the IU Championship Cross Country Course in Bloomington during the Big Ten Championships.

Not only did Receveur win the women's 6K race, but she dominated the rest of the field. In a meet that saw the Hoosiers go up against five ranked conference opponents, Receveur found herself at least 20 meters ahead of her closest competitor for most of the race.

It was all part of her plan to go out fast and let her running instincts take over.

“I didn’t really have much of a strategy,” Receveur said. “I just kind of planned on running off of instinct. I just had to trust myself that my pace felt good for me and I just went with it.”

Receveur made even more history by breaking the IU course women’s 6K record with a time of 20:10.3. The time was good enough to break the record she had set in September at the Sam Bell Invitational.

Receveur’s dominant performance wasn’t anything new. History being made has almost become a given anytime she's stepped on a cross-country course this season.

“She’s a tough girl and she competes hard,” IU Coach Ron Helmer said. “She’s learning how to win, and with the number of high level races she’s been in, she’s a pretty seasoned competitor. Once you become experienced and confident, these kinds of things have a chance to happen.”

Even though Receveur was able to add another impressive performance to her 2017 campaign, she still had to battle until the end of the race.

She had to fight off a late scare from senior Madeline Strandemo of Minnesota, who finished second overall with a time of 20:13.5, along with the weather, which even featured a light snowfall.

She might have been a little nervous at times, but even Receveur's own fears were not enough to keep her from succeeding.

“I definitely got nervous basically from 1K to 4K,” Receveur said. “In the last 400 meters, everybody was screaming at me that the other girls were gaining on me. I think I got scared for a moment so I just really tried to kick it in at the end.”

To the Hoosiers’ disdain, not all the runners were able to have their best performances on Sunday. 

The women’s team finished seventh with a score of 156 while Michigan earned the championship title with a score of 55. The seventh place finish was still an improvement from last year’s Big Ten meet, in which the women finished eighth.

Behind Receveur, junior Brenna Calder (28th), sophomore Grace Walther (32nd), and juniors Maggie Allen (57th) and Haley Harris (59th) rounded out the top five for IU. 

Similarly, the men’s team finished seventh in the 8K race with 159 points while Michigan also won the men’s competition with a score of 71.

Sophomore Ben Veatch was the lone bright spot for the men’s team as he finished fourth overall with a time of 24:13.6, earning him first team All-Big Ten honors.

Sophomores Kyle Mau (17th) and Bryce Millar (40th), and juniors Joe Murphy (42nd) and Kyle Burks (58th) completed the rest of the top five for the injury-ridden Hoosiers, who were missing one of their top runners, freshman Cooper Williams, due to an injury.

“I’m not upset in the races we had,” Helmer said. “I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get the results we wanted, but you don’t always get everything you want.”

For Helmer, he said Receveur’s performance was still the best thing to take from the day. The championship title was just another notch on the belt for a runner that keeps defying the odds.

But he says he still sees more opportunities for her to get even better.

“I know where she’s come from in her career, and I’m proud of where she’s gotten to,” Helmer said. “As coaches always do, now I’m trying to sit back and figure out what I have to do to help her get better.”

Even with all the awards and recognition she garnered on Sunday, Receveur remained humble. 

She looked past the medals and television interviews as she said she was mainly just happy people came out to support her and her teammates in their biggest race of the year so far.

“Winning is definitely a special feeling,” Receveur said. “I think what’s even more special today was the fact we had so many IU alumni here cheering us on. That feeling of it being on our home course and having so many people support us and cheer for us was what I thought was the best feeling out of anything today.”

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