Indiana cross country placed fourth in the men’s 5.2 mile race and fifth in the women’s 6K race in the Big Ten Championships on Friday.
Despite the cold and wet weather, senior Arjun Jha secured First Team All-Big Ten honors by finishing in sixth place with a time of 25:03.7. After Jha, senior Jake Gebhardt finished in 23rd, junior Austin Haskett in 24th, and seniors Skylar Stidam and Ben Veatch in 32nd and 34th, respectively.
“Everybody was out there doing their best and working together and working for our team,” Schmitt said. “Just using that as motivation, knowing that they’re all doing their job so I had to be out there doing my job as well and that really pushed me through the hard parts of the course.”
Senior Sarah Schmitt finished in 21:07.8 as the first Indiana woman across the line, earning her a 14th-place finish and Second Team All-Big Ten honors. Indiana’s scoring runners after Schmitt were sophomore Mariah Wehrle in 30th, senior Hannah Stoffel in 31st, junior Mikaela Ramirez in 32nd and senior Maddie Dalton in 51st.
At last season’s conference championships, Jha and Schmitt were both named Second Team All-Big Ten. Coming into this year’s competition, both runners were first across the line for the Hoosiers in the two meets each raced earlier this season. Both Jha and Schmitt credited the win to composure and encouragement from their teammates.
“It’s a much smaller race than we’ve been running the last few weeks so I knew I could be pretty patient,” Jha said. “Just kind of keep my eye on the front group and just wait and wait and wait and run hard late and I’d be able to finish pretty highly.”
Head coach Ron Helmer said running together as a team throughout the race was a point of emphasis going into the meet. While the Hoosiers showed improvement, he said he thinks the runners have not reached their potential yet.
“In terms of where we’ve been, this was a big step forward and that’s what we were trying to get done," Helmer said. "We don’t celebrate fourth and fifth but the Big Ten is pretty difficult in a lot of sports and cross country happens to be one of them. To end up where we did is nothing to be ashamed of.”
All 14 conference teams competed in the women’s race. No. 6 Minnesota posted the lowest score to secure the Big Ten Championship. No. 22 Wisconsin finished next, followed by No. 20 Michigan State and No. 9 Michigan. Indiana posted the best score among teams entering the meet unranked and finished ahead of No. 25 Illinois.
In the men’s race, only 12 teams competed. No. 10-ranked Wisconsin won the men’s Big Ten Championship, No. 15 Michigan took second and No. 29 Minnesota took third. Indiana was the first unranked team across the line.
Jha said he hopes to carry over the momentum from this race to the team’s regional championship in a couple weeks.
“To be able to go out there and validate that hard work and run well in competition when it matters, it gives you a lot of confidence," Jha said. “I think we’re really well-suited for what’s to come.”
Next up for Indiana cross country is the Hoosier Invitational on Nov. 5. The meet, hosted by Indiana at the Sam Bell Cross Country course, serves as the final race of the season for runners not competing in the Great Lakes Regional Championships on Nov. 12.