This weekend, the IU Women’s Track and Field team will face off against 16 teams in the 2018 Kentucky Invitational in Lexington at the Nutter Field House.
This will be IU's first away meet for the 2017-2018 season. The invite will be the second meeting between the Hoosiers and the Wildcats this season, as well as Cincinnati and Eastern Kentucky.
All three of these teams competed against the Hoosiers at IU’s Hoosier Invitational on Dec. 7, 2017 at the Gladstein Fieldhouse.
For the aforementioned teams except IU, the Kentucky Invitational will be their second meet of the season, whereas IU will be competing in its third. The extra mileage under the belts of the Hoosiers doesn't seem to pose a problem.
“We have a group that came in here and hit the ground running,” IU Coach Ron Helmer said. “These races are great training opportunities. There’s a great benefit. It’s not just a matter of racing, it’s also a chance to take steps forward in terms of our fitness and our race sharpness.”
The last time the Hoosiers were on the track was at home against the University of Tennessee. The Hoosiers lost that match-up with a score of 74-48.
Despite the loss, IU came away with an impressive performance in the 800-meter run, sweeping the competition.
Junior Haley Harris, who placed first, came up with a third-place national ranking with a time of 2:10.46. Sophomore Joely Pinkston came in behind Harris at 2:10.81, putting her at fifth place nationally.
Harris is also nationally ranked in the mile, standing in fifth place with a time of 4:52.55, which she ran at the Hoosier Invitational. Freshman Hannah Stoffel joined the ranks last week as well after winning the mile. Her time of 4:55.51 gives her the eighth best time nationwide.
These two athletes will be ones to watch, especially as Harris earned Big Ten Women’s Track Athlete of the Week.
Other upperclassmen athletes to keep an eye out for include distance runners senior Brenna Calder and junior Maggie Allen. Of the underclassmen, Helmer pointed out a handful of names, including sophomores Kayla Dawson and Jenna Jungles.
“We’ve got a nice group. I think Zykeria Williams, the freshman hurdler, will continue to improve,” Helmer said. “Natalie Price, a freshman 400m runner, is running her first 400m this weekend and I expect she’ll do really well. And then we have a bunch of 800m runners, all of whom I think can do a really nice job this weekend.”
The invitational contain big contenders for IU. Most prominently are fellow Big Ten competitor, Ohio State, alongside Louisville and Kentucky.
“Kentucky is really good,” Helmer said. “The meet we had in December was really a quality meet, and I think it was good for our athletes to get in and face that level of competition and start to get a handle on what it’s going to take to be able to compete at this level. We had a number of people who did that and did that really, really well.”