At the Joe Piane Invite in South Bend, Indiana, the Hoosiers saw their best runners put on some sparkling performances among the nation’s best.
Seniors Kyle Mau and Ben Veatch were fourth and 11th to lead the Hoosiers to a sixth place team finish. Meanwhile, Bailey Hertenstein continued the strong start to her sophomore season,placing seventh to lead the IU women to a 12th-place finish.
The meet at the Notre Dame cross-country course had 10 of the top-25 men’s and women’s teams. However, this did not scare Hertenstein,who blazed along the turf course. From start to finish, the Florida native was at the top of the pack and never looked afraid to compete against All-Americans.
As the pack broke down in the final stretch, Hertenstein sprinted ahead of 2018 Big 12 champion Iowa State's Cailie Logue. While Logue was struggling, Hertenstein was calm with her eyes focused on the finish line.
“I will not say I'm surprised," IU head coach Ron Helmer said on Hertenstein. "Until you do it for the first time you do not really know. From my standpoint and her standpoint, as she looks at it going forward, she should be more confident going into these same situations.”
For the IU men, seniors Kyle Mau and Ben Veatch showed their might, staying aggressive from start to finish.
“The mentality was just to stay relaxed early,” Veatch said. “Find the right guys in the race — there are a lot of All-Americans in this race — and then finish strong.”
Mau and Veatch hung with the top pack of All-Americans over the course of five miles to provide an impressive mid-season performance.
“We asked them to get with the leaders and trust themselves,” Helmer said. “The fact they are willing to do that and they pulled it off makes me really confident that they can take a big step forward.”
IU did not see that big step forward from the rest of the Hoosier men. Sophomore Arjun Jha was 39th, senior Bryce Millar 67th and sophomore Dustin Horter 74th.
However, IU did place above Wisconsin and Michigan to garner at-large points that will potentially help the Hoosiers qualify for the NCAA Championships next month.
The IU women also received some at-large points finishing ahead of Purdue. The 12th-place finish was led by Hertenstein, but fellow sophomore Sarah Schmitt was a key part of the performance. A gutsy run placed her 40th, running 15 seconds per kilometer faster than at last month’s Commodore Classic.
“We’re never going into the races thinking about the times,” Schmitt said. “I was not worried about the intrinsics, you can't control the times or paces. You run the same race plan every day,and it was just a lot faster and colder than it was (at the Commodore Classic.)”
Freshman Mikaela Ramirez was 80th, sophomore Jenna Barker 96th, and senior Kelsey Harris 100th for the Hoosiers. IU is young and with that comes mistakes, but room for growth.
“They got very scattered and really didn't work together well at all,” Helmer said. “I think we can be much, much better once we learn to run as a pack.”
With still a few more races before the postseason, the Hoosiers still proved they have the talent to compete with some elite teams.
“We can still end up with a really good cross-country team,” Helmer said. “Young kids have to figure things out, but I’m really optimistic this group can get a lot better.”
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