The IU men’s and women’s cross-country teams are headed to the NCAA National Championships and will compete Nov. 18 in Madison, Wisconsin.
After fifth-place finishes in the Great Lakes Regional meet, the Hoosiers qualified for an at-large bid to the culminating meet of the cross-country season where they’ll race against 30 of the best teams in the nation.
It’s the first time since 2013 that both teams will represent IU at the NCAA Championships in the same season.
“I thought about it more than I wanted to,” senior Maggie Allen said. “I was so excited and it’s even more special because now we get the boys to come with us.”
For seniors like Allen and Katherine Receveur, this race will be the last of their cross-country career, but IU Coach Ron Helmer said it’s important to prepare as if it were any other meet.
“The way you’re successful in this meet is not allowing it to be anything other than what we’ve been doing,” Helmer said. “There’s a reason we go to Nuttycombe. Pre Nats gave us that opportunity as well and then, beyond that, the Big Ten meet is a really good meet and the regional is a really good meet. We want to approach the NCAA Championships just like that.”
The women enter the race ranked 20th in the nation and were the fifth team from the Great Lakes region to qualify for the meet. Allen led the way for the Hoosiers in that meet with an eighth-place finish in the women’s. Receveur — the team’s usual No.1 runner — placed 19th overall.
Allen said the biggest thing in this meet is to stay composed. At the national stage, she said the team wants to perform at their best, but those performances come when the team stays relaxed.
The Hoosiers will see some familiar faces in the National Championships. Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State are the Big Ten conference opponents that also qualified.
“Going into it, we want to beat as many teams as possible,” Allen said. “Set aside Big Tens and set aside Regionals, these are 30 of the best teams in the nation. This week, in particular, we want to stay focused on making sure we’re preparing our runs like we have every other week.”
On the men’s side, they are ranked 24th in the country. Like the women, they were also the fifth and final team to escape the Great Lakes Regional meet with entry to the National meet.
Senior Kyle Mau knew at the end of the regional race that he would be traveling to Madison after finishing fourth in the men’s 10k, which automatically qualified him for the NCAA Championships.
Last week, he said the goal was to have a team representing the University on Nov. 17.
“It’s really exciting,” Mau said. “It’s definitely been a goal all year for us to make it to the national meet and for it to finally come true with a bunch of hard work it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Mau will lead the IU men’s team in the national meet, but true freshman Dustin Horter will be the team’s No. 2 runner once again. Both earned All-Big Ten and All-Region honors this season.
For both of these teams, Helmer said the goal is to beat as many other teams as possible, but he also said he’s fully confident that both teams will place better than their national ranking.
“We’ll exceed our ranking, I’m absolutely sure of that,” Helmer said. “If we can have two teams in the top 20, that would be great. Most teams here would love to be in the top 20, men’s soccer may be the only team for whom that would be a disappointment. If we got a women’s team into the top 10 and a men’s team in the top 15 it would be an awesome day.”
No matter the outcome of the race, both Allen and Mau mentioned how special this season has been and how special the upcoming race will be. Both teams will have the opportunity to share and experience the moment as one team.
“I’ll think about how far we’ve progressed as a team,” Mau said. “I feel like, from start to finish, if you look at our races we’ve really grown a lot as a team and as individuals. One of the things I’m really excited about moving forward is just how well this group works together and I think it’s a group that has a lot of potential.”
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