The IU cross country team wrapped up their shortened season at the NCAA Cross Country National Championships on Monday in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The event consisted of two separate races — the women ran a 6000-meter race and the men ran 10,000 meters.
Despite high expectations from Helmer coming into the meet, the men finished 26th and the women 19th. Both the men’s and women’s teams were ranked 17th nationally in the weekly U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll.
“We had several outstanding individual efforts, but as a whole felt our finishes didn’t accurately reflect who we are,” head coach Ron Helmer said. “You have to perform, though, and we just didn’t as a team.”
On the women’s side, junior Bailey Herternstein was the top performer for either team, repeating as an All-American on her way to 28th-place finish with a time of 20:46.4. It is the highest finish at the NCAA’s for the junior.
Hertenstein was joined by fellow juniors Sarah Schmitt and Hannah Stoffel, both of whom ran excellent races. Schmitt finished 102nd with a time of 21:30.6 and Stoffel came in five places later to take 107th, running her race in 21:32.1.
A trio of juniors came in behind the top three, with Maddie Dalton taking 170th place, Abi Little snagging 201st and Jenna Barker picking up 219th place.
“Although the women’s team did not perform the way we wanted to, I am so proud because we put it all out there,” Barker said. “Bailey Hertenstein and Hannah Stoffel both had incredible races, and I believe they will continue to build on their success.”
Senior Ben Veatch said the men entered the season finale with a goal to build on a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Championships. But after a crazy week, with several members of the team competing in the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships just days prior, the team ran out of gas on Monday.
“With the jumbled indoor track and XC schedule it was difficult to prepare for both, Veatch said. “We have a very young team and I think some of that inexperience finally showed a little bit with this being the first 10K some of our guys have ever raced.”
Veatch led the way once again with a time of 31:12.8 en route to a 73rd-place finish. Juniors Arjun Jha and Jake Gebhardt were the next two Hoosiers to cross the finish line, as Jha took 85th place and Gebhardt came in at 124th.
Redshirt Freshman Austin Hackett, competing in his first NCAA Championships, secured 197th place by finishing in 32:47.9. Sophomore Skylar Stidam came in less than a second later, snagging 198th.
With both the cross country and indoor seasons behind them, IU has the chance to focus on one season at a time as they begin to train for outdoor track and field. Helmer said the ability to focus one one thing at a time will pay dividends for the young Hoosiers.
“Our indoor track and cross country seasons got jammed together into a short hectic time span,” he said. “It will be nice to get back to training and into a more predictable routine. We’ve done a lot of good work and we will have the opportunity to take advantage of it as we get into the late outdoor season.”