Friday’s Great Lakes Regional Championship in Terre Haute, Indiana, will be a weird race for many top teams.
Not only will the top three teams qualify for the NCAA Cross Country National Championship held in Louisville, Kentucky, but the meet takes place just eight days before it.
“It’s kind of funny because everybody is trying to do everything they need to do to advance, but not any more than they have to do,” IU Coach Ron Helmer said. “Even though you might think there would be this big battle for the win, there’s really not.”
The IU cross-country teams are in a similar position, as the men's team comes in as the seventh-ranked team in the Great Lakes Regional and the women's team is sixth. The men’s and women’s teams have individuals in Ben Veatch and Katherine Receveur who will be looking to secure an individual spot at nationals if their teams do not qualify.
Receveur in particular will have a lot of pressure on her as she comes into the race as one of the favorites to win the women’s 6K after she won the Big Ten Championship and broke her own course record in Bloomington Oct. 29.
“I think they just need to be composed and not respond to every little move other people make,” Helmer said. “They just need to get in a rhythm and keep themselves in contact with the leaders.”
For the men’s team, they come into the race a little banged up. Sophomore Bryce Millar has constantly battled injuries all year, and freshman Cooper Williams sat out the Big Ten Championship with an injury of his own.
For Helmer, the depth of his men’s squad has been a concern all year, but he said he thinks they can still be successful if each runner sticks to what they do best as individuals.
“I just want them to be who they are,” Helmer said. “When you only have about five runners, you can’t have any breakdowns and you need everybody to just have good solid races. We don’t need five home runs, we need three singles, a double and a triple.”
Junior Kyle Burks said he’s still confident in the small group of runners left after the recent health struggles.
“We knew we weren’t very deep at the beginning of the season, so when people got hurt, that was a big loss,” Burks said. “We knew everybody was going to have to start pulling more weight, but we’ve worked through that and we’ve got a strong group of five runners moving forward.”
As for the women’s team, with Receveur out in front, the rest of the team will look to pick up the pace behind her to improve upon their seventh-place finish at the Big Ten Championship. They too will be affected by injuries, as sophomore Lexa Barrott will be out with an injury of her own on Friday.
It has been a gradual decline for the women, who were ranked as high as 14th in the nation at one point this season. However, the always consistent junior Brenna Calder said she thinks she and her teammates are in a prime position to make some noise this weekend.
“We started the season off really strong and we’ve been progressing off that success we had earlier in the year, even though we’ve had a few setbacks with injuries and meets not going exactly the way we wanted them to,” Calder said. “I think we’re still really ready to get out there and have a really great meet this weekend.”
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