Junior Maggie Allen had a chance to check out the selection of country music radio stations in Tampa, Florida on Thursday night.
The women’s 10,000-meter race at the NCAA Prelims had been pushed back an hour due to a lightning delay and she needed something to take her mind off the race while she waited.
She got in the team van and turned on the radio to the nearest country music station.
Her initial thoughts on her first taste of Tampa country radio — it was a pretty good station and more importantly, very relaxing.
“It was actually really relaxing,” Allen said. “I was just trying not to think too much about the race. I knew if I started thinking too much about it, I could’ve came up with a million reasons why the delay could hurt my race.”
Her plan turned out to work as Allen would finish fourth overall in the race with a time of 34:00.89, making her the first IU runner to qualify for the NCAA Championships during the next three days of competition.
Although bad weather would be a constant hassle during the Prelims, eight Hoosiers would go on to advance to Nationals.
“We did some really good things and it’s those good things that we need to focus on moving forward,” Coach Ron Helmer said. “As a coach, you feel bad for the kids that don’t move on but what we’re going to choose to do moving forward is to get excited about the eight kids that are moving on and be positive about that.”
While the first two days on Thursday and Friday were full of trial races, IU came up with a number of impressive performances.
On Thursday, sophomore Adam Coulon got things started in the men’s pole vault. He placed 10th overall after posting a personal-record mark of 5.35 meters, making him the only IU field event participant to advance to Nationals. Later, Allen would follow that up with her fourth-place finish in the 10,000-meter.
On day two, the men’s team got its first two runners to advance when sophomore Cooper Williams and senior Daniel Kuhn finished seventh and ninth in the 800-meter run.
After Williams raced out to the front of the pack and led for most of the first lap, he eventually relinquished his lead to Mississippi State freshman Marco Arop and Penn State junior Isaiah Harris. However, he still qualified automatically for Nationals by finishing in the top three of his heat with a time of 1:48.09.
Meanwhile, Kuhn got caught behind the pack and couldn’t make much of a kick on the final stretch, but still qualified with his time of 1:48.26.
However, the day wasn’t full of positives as the Hoosiers didn’t quite meet expectations in the women’s 800-meter. Senior Kendell Wiles came in seeded 12th overall, but didn’t qualify for the quarterfinals after finishing 36th in the trials on Thursday.
Junior Kelsey Harris seemed to pick up the slack after finishing fourth in trials with a personal-best time of 2:03.89 ,but she slowed down considerably in the quarterfinals. She would run a time of 2:07.00 and finish 17th, keeping her out of the NCAA Championships as well.
On Saturday, day three was marred by a torrential downpour in Tampa that continued sporadically throughout the day, but still didn’t seem to slow down the Hoosiers.
Junior Joe Murphy fought through the rain to take third place in the men’s 1,500-meter run in 3:43.79. The time shattered his time in trials Thursday by nearly nine seconds.
As the downpour refused to let up around him, Murphy emerged from the wall of rain, fist in the air as he crossed the finish line, securing his spot at Nationals.
“It’s been a long track season and you just go through so much adversity,” Murphy said. “Everybody wants to go to Nationals, so to finally punch that ticket was a really special moment and I just felt really excited.”
That set off a string of NCAA-qualifying performances for IU as William Session moved on in the men’s 110-meter hurdles and Ben Veatch and Katherine Receveur advanced in the men’s and women’s 5,000-meter runs respectively.
Receveur ended up eighth with a time of 16:16.99 in her event, while Veatch finished third in his in 13:55.55. Session wound up sixth with a time of 13.75 in the 110-meter hurdles.
The final day wasn’t without some heartbreak for the Hoosiers, namely in the field events. Junior Willie Morrison, who was the Big Ten champion two weeks ago, finished 14th in the men’s shot put, falling short of qualifying for Nationals. He finished behind three Big Ten competitors in the process.
Meanwhile, junior Nycia Ford, who finished second at Big Tens, was knocked out of the women’s hammer throw after finishing 17th overall.
Helmer said there were a number of members on his team that he would have liked to seen more out of over the weekend.
“Even though we’re moving eight forward, I definitely thought it would be double that and I don’t think I was dreaming,” Helmer said. “It was the first round of the NCAA tournament and you’re going up against some of the best people in the country, so if you make a mistake, you’ll miss your opportunity and pay for it.”
For IU’s remaining athletes, they will now prepare for the NCAA Championships that take place from June 7-9 in Eugene, Oregon.
For Allen, she said she just needs to keep doing the same thing she’s been doing in both races and practice to continue having success.
“Although it’s going to be on a bigger stage and I’ve been working all year to get to this point, I don’t think I need to change anything I’ve been doing,” Allen said. “Coach always talks about why change something when everything else has been working, so I’m just going to try to go into it like any other race.”
Whether or not that means listening to more country music before her race has yet to be seen.
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