Sophomore William Session finally got a second to sit down.
He was exhausted and out of breath, covered in sweat from head to toe.
Session had just finished second overall in the men’s 110-meter hurdles at the Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Sunday, while also setting a new personal record time of 13.57.
He still had one more event to go in the 400-meter hurdles. Yet, he only had one thing on his mind—finish strong.
“You can’t really go in thinking about too much because it messes up your focus,” Session said. “You just have to focus on you, take deep breaths as much as you can and just go from there.”
However, Session wasn’t the only Hoosier to finish strong on the third and final day of the championships. It proved to be a sort of rallying cry for Coach Ron Helmer and his teams.
Everybody from IU’s hurdlers to their distance runners were buying in. It’s what helped the men’s team, who came into the day tied for third, finish second overall, while the women’s team held their spot in fourth place.
“We drill that constantly,” Helmer said. “At the same time, you can’t do that unless you get fit and get stronger. Those kids have done a really nice job this year of starting to embrace a higher level of fitness and it showed.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams started Sunday strong with some early points in the remaining field events. Junior Eric Bethea picked up some points on the men’s side after a third-place finish in the triple jump. Later, sophomore Adam Coulon secured fifth-place in the pole vault and freshman Jyles Etienne finished seventh in the high jump.
Meanwhile, sophomore Leah Moran scored on the women’s side with a fourth-place finish in the triple jump.
However, IU managed to make up their most ground on the track. The Hoosiers started rolling in the 1500- meter run when junior Joe Murphy finished third in the men’s race and senior Brenna Calder wound up fifth for the women’s team.
Freshman Zykeria Williams followed that up with a fifth-place finish in the women’s 110 meter hurdles. Then, the men’s team made one of their biggest leaps up the scoreboard when Session broke through with his second-place finish.
“I really didn’t know how big that was but clearly it was huge,” Session said.
From there, the Hoosiers relied on one of their most consistent groups of runners in the distance and middle distance races.
In an extremely fast men’s 800-meter race, senior Daniel Kuhn and sophomore Cooper Williams finished second and third respectively, while also running personal record times. Kuhn’s time of 1:46.052 just edged Williams’ mark of 1:46.053, but both would be enough to break the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex record. However, Penn State junior Isaiah Harris was even faster at 1:45.31.
Along with an eighth-place finish from senior Jordan Huntoon, IU still managed to put up 15 points overall in the event. Kuhn said it was nice having Williams pushing him throughout the race.
“You don’t not only want to beat the field, but also beat the people you’ve been training with every day,” Kuhn said. “He probably pushed me to run a little faster and maybe even made sure to let the older guy win.”
In the women’s 800-meter race, IU chalked up 19 total points. Senior Kendell Wiles finished second with a time of 2:05.81, while junior Kelsey Harris finished third, sophomore Joely Pinkston finished fifth and sophomore Mallory Mulzer wound up eighth.
Wiles’ late kick left her just short of first place. Michigan freshman outlasted Wiles over the last few meters with a time of 2:05.73.
Wiles, sticking with her team's mantra, said all that was going through her head was finishing strong.
“In the 800, it’s easy to checkout once you get exhausted,” Wiles said. “I just knew we were fighting for points and a medal is always fun to fight for, so you just have to put your head down and get them one at a time.”
The women’s team would then pick up nine more points in the 5000-meter race after junior Katherine Receveur won the event with a time of 16:43.07. Junior Maggie Allen also chipped in with a third-place time of 16:44.83.
In the men’s race, freshman Ben Veatch capped off his impressive weekend with a second-place finish with a time of 14:23.24.
Receveur said she knew the final few distance races would be important heading down the stretch for both teams.
“I knew Maggie and I were going to make it on the podium if we just gave it everything we had,” Receveur said. “We really needed those points.”
As the day came down to the final event, the 4x400 meter relay, the women’s team was all but locked in at fourth-place while Minnesota was secured in first with 134 points. Meanwhile, the men’s team sat at tied for third with Michigan, just two points behind Nebraska and three points ahead of Penn State.
It all came down to the men's team's unranked 4x400 team of freshman Zubin Muncherji, senior Daniel Kuhn, sophomore Cooper Williams and junior Treyton Harris.
The four rose to the occasion, finishing fourth with a time of 3:09.22. It put the Hoosiers alone in second with 88 points, behind only Ohio State with 109.
“We put three of our best athletes out there, so we knew we were going to get that kind of effort,” Helmer said. “At the end of a long weekend, everybody’s tired and everybody’s got people they decided not to put out there but we did. Second feels a lot better than third.”
As Harris crossed the line, baton in hand, it capped off an all-around impressive final day of the championships for IU.
Helmer said his Hoosiers finished about as strong as he could have asked for but there’s still another level he thinks they can reach moving forward.
“It was really balanced but now the question becomes how do we become balnced enough to steal first place,” Helmer said. “That’s our challenge moving forward. We need to continue looking where the holes are and what we need to do to get better but right now, we need to be excited about the kids that ran well and the number of events that we were able to get points out of.”
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