Midterms are here, and a real test has arrived for the IU cross-country team.
The Hoosiers head to one of the season’s most competitive meets in the country. The Joe Piane invite in South Bend will host 10 top-25 men’s and women's teams.
For just the second time this season IU will run its top lineup Friday at the University of Notre Dame Golf Course. In their first full meet, the Hoosier men placed second at the Commodore Classic, and the women third.
Sophomore Bailey Hertenstein led the Hoosier women with a race victory at her first meet in Nashville, Tennessee, last month that garnered her National Athlete of the Week honors. However, with her Commodore Classic victory behind her, Hertenstein will be significantly tested in South Bend.
In her first year as IU’s top runner,the Florida native will face a cornucopia of elite athletes from No. 1-ranked Colorado, No. 2 New Mexico and No. 6 Washington. This will be a new challenge for the young acclaimed runner, but IU head coach Ron Helmer has focused on the positives with Hertenstein.
“I think she is very realistic and knows there are some big-time competitors that we probably will not measure up well against but she will still have to compete against,” Helmer said. “Hopefully they bring her forward and continue her development. She's a great competitor.
The Joe Piane Invite will have an influence on both the men and women's post season chances for both the men and women’s teams .
The Hoosiers are hoping to repeat last season’s achievements when both the men and women qualified for the NCAA National Championships for the first time since 2013. However, if IU does not place first or second at the Great Lakes Regional Championships next month, they will need to qualify through at-large points, as both teams did last year.
The Hoosiers earn at-large points by finishing ahead of teams in races that go on to automatically qualify for the National Championships in their respective regional-final races. With many of the top teams in the country in South Bend,the Joe Piane Invite will be a key opportunity for IU to pick up at-large points for the postseason.
However, the 19th-ranked Hoosier men will not just be shooting for points, but they also have a key race in their development. IU will make or break its hopes Friday, with expectations of competing among the elite of the nation.
“Our frontrunners, Kyle (Mau) and Ben (Veach), need to be comfortable up front, they need to trust themselves and go against some of the best individuals in the country,” Helmer said. “Our depth needs to continue to come through for us.”
IU will need that depth to hang with the likes of No. 4 Colorado and No. 9 Notre Dame among others.
With IU’s approach being to run as a team so far this season, sophomores Arjun Jha, Skylar Stidam, and junior Hunter Moore will need to be aggressive together to propel the team toward great heights Friday.
Midterms involve a lot of pressure, and for IU this test has high stakes.
“I think they are going to stay focused on what we are trying to accomplish,” Helmer said. “We just need to trust that work, stay healthy and be ready when the big meets happen.”
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