Indiana cross country will compete for conference titles in the Big Ten Championships on Friday in University Park, Pennsylvania. The men’s 5.2 mile race begins at 10:45 a.m. followed by the women’s 6K at 11:45 a.m..
As Indiana enters the championship season, head coach Ron Helmer said he’s impressed by the runners in training, but they still need to replicate those performances in meets.
“If I believe, then that’s fine,” Helmer said about his team. “But if they don’t really believe, then they’re out there wavering a little bit and their confidence isn’t where it needs to be. Then we get a little bit lost.”
Throughout the season, Helmer has repeatedly said the team has failed to live up to its potential in meets. Indiana has the talent and fitness to compete with any team, Helmer said, and the runners have shown it in training but not yet in races. After starting the season ranked in the coaches’ poll, both Indiana men and women were unranked in the latest poll.
Senior Sarah Schmitt said she hopes the team’s shortcomings so far can serve as motivation going into conference, regional and national championships.
“As a team we are working out really well and it hasn’t necessarily translated to our race performances yet,” Schmitt said. “So I think we’re going into it with an underdog mentality.”
While Schmitt can claim an underdog mentality for a Hoosier team that hasn’t finished in the top half of the field in its last two meets, she has been the first Hoosier across the line in both.
Schmitt finished 62nd at the Joe Piane Invitational and 97th at the Nuttycombe Invitational and said her talent and conditioning help her succeed, but they are not the only factors in her favorable race results.
“It’s all about the mental attitude that you’re going into the race with,” Schmitt said. “It’s just all about having fun, enjoying the experience and really replicating practice in the races.”
Each team has several runners who Helmer thinks will perform well, but he said he won’t be judging the team’s success on how Indiana places this weekend. Instead, he wants the runners to focus on following the race plan and running to their potential. If the team executes, Helmer said the results will follow.
Indiana has already run against most Big Ten teams this season. Five of the 14 teams competing on the women’s side are ranked. Twelve men’s teams will run in the Big Ten Championships because Northwestern and Maryland only field women’s cross country teams and three enter ranked.
In last season’s Big Ten Championships, Indiana men placed second and the women placed fourth. Among runners also competing in this year’s race, Jake Gebhardt, Arjun Jha, Skylar Stidam and Ben Veatch earned second team All-Big Ten honors last season on the men’s side. Schmitt was Second Team All-Big Ten on the women’s side.
All-Big Ten First Team is awarded to runners who finish in the top seven overall in their race, and Second Team goes to runners who finish in 8th to 14th place.