One more dress rehearsal. IU cross-country will split up this weekend to compete in its final meets of the season before the postseason begins.
The Hoosiers will send their top six men’s runners and seven women’s runners to the prestigious Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday afternoon. The rest of both squads will make the short trip Saturday morning to Terre Haute, Indiana for pre-nationals on the same course that will have the National Championships next month.
The 15th-ranked IU men’s team had high expectations all season long and will have one final race to work together before the Big Ten Championships on Nov. 3. Indiana will face off against the best field it will see until the NCAA National Championships with an abundance of top-25 teams in Madison.
IU saw some positives from its last meet, the Joe Piane Invite at the University of Notre Dame, but head coach Ron Helmer sees room for growth from his talented squad.
“We need to come together as a group and do a little bit better job with some pack running in that really intense competitive environment,” Helmer said. “Kyle and Ben need to help Arjun get a little closer to the front.”
While seniors Kyle Mau and Ben Veatch are gearing toward performances that could see them competing for All-American status at the National Championships, the Hoosiers need to build their depth to have success as a team. The growth of IU’s third runner, sophomore Arjun Jha, should help, as will a better team performance for the squad’s other runners on Friday.
“Bryce (Millar), Dustin (Horter) and Matthew (Schadler), they need to pack up,” Helmer said. “They all kind of just ran, and we didn’t have the four and five we should should've had at Notre Dame. They have to work together as a group and feed off each other.”
The IU women will also be looking for more focused team running at Nuttycombe. While sophomores Bailey Hertenstein and Sarah Schmitt shined in strong performances in South Bend, Indiana, the rest of the Hoosiers turned in an underwhelming performance.
“I really feel they can do a better job of running and working together and they felt the need to be a little more composed and more team oriented,” Helmer said. “It felt like they were just running. The gun went off, they ran, they finished and that was it.”
Over the last two weeks, Helmer had the five Hoosiers behind Hertenstein and Schmitt workout together in hope that he will see a more focused team performance in the actual meet. A talented but raw women’s team will hope to mesh together Friday before it focuses on qualifying for the NCAA Championships next month.
“I think executing as a group is going to help them,” Helmer said. “They didn’t like the notion of just being out there and not helping their teammates.”
IU will also send some talented runners to pre-nationals in Terre Haute on Saturday morning that will decide the final Hoosiers to fill the nine running spots at the Big Ten Championships.
“We are looking for a couple people that would become a top nine and looking for a breakout race from a couple of them,” Helmer said. “Pretty excited about all them seeing what they might be able to do.”
With both deep men’s and women’s squads, some talented runners will be left on the sidelines during the postseason next month. The competitive meet in Terre Haute will be their last chance to prove they are deserving of a postseason spot.
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Its plan was announced Wednesday afternoon.
IU is scheduled to open its season against Wisconsin on Sept. 4.
Workouts began June 15 but were paused July 17.