As the weather cools, the cross-country season heats up. IU cross-country will head to Nashville this weekend to race in the Commodore Classic. The Hoosiers will race their top lineup for the first time this year.
The meet Saturday morning will test the IU men and women against 15 talented teams. The race hosted by Vanderbilt University will be at Percy Warner Park in Tennessee’s capital city.
For the Hoosier women, the meet will mark the start of a new era. Top runners in sophomores Sarah Schmitt and Bailey Hertenstein officially hold the baton handed to them by graduated Hoosier legends that led IU to a 17th place finish in last year’s NCAA National Championships.
With the women’s team coming into the season unranked, the meet Saturday against top teams such as 15th ranked University of Mississippi and 26th ranked Ohio State will provide IU with a stiff test.
While the Hoosiers get their feet wet, they will also be competing against each other for top lineup spots as the season progresses. IU sophomore Abi Little and freshman Mikaela Ramirez have high hopes to be racing when it matters most after both had top 10 finishes in the Hoosiers' season opening meet in Ohio. However, there are no guarantees as the season moves forward.
“When it’s early, some people are fresh, and some are tired from training hard,” said 13-year head coach Ron Helmer. “There are a lot of changes over the first four or five weeks of the season.”
With an abundance of youth for the Hoosier women, the lineup changes will likely be even more fluid than normal.
For the IU men, the Commodore Classic will be less about finding who they are than vindicating soaring expectations. The 15th-ranked Hoosiers will see star senior Kyle Mau make his much-anticipated senior debut along with a trove of experienced and talented IU runners.
Even Coach Helmer has anticipation for this version of IU, especially with a top three that may be one of the best trios in the nation.
“Mau, (Arjun) Jah, (Ben) Veech are head and shoulders over the rest,” said Helmer. “Every workout is awesome, I am really anxious to see what they can do.”
IU will be contending as a full team Saturday with a variety of potent teams including 14th ranked Ole Miss.
“I hope we can go in and prove that we have the potential to be that dominant team that our early season workouts suggest we might be,” Helmer said.
For IU fans, the Commodore Classic will be the first opportunity to see both the Hoosier men and women competing at full strength against some of the other top teams in the nation. The race results will set the stage for the rest of the season of Hoosier running.