Indiana cross country travels to the Angel Mounds Cross Country Course in Evansville, Indiana, for the Great Lakes Regional Championships on Friday. The races determine qualification for the NCAA Championships and begin with the women’s 6K at noon followed by the men’s 10K at 1 p.m.
Indiana needs to perform well enough Friday to qualify as one of 31 teams competing in the Division I NCAA Championships on Nov. 20 in Tallahassee, Florida. The top two teams from each of the nine DI cross country regions automatically earn spots, leaving 13 spots for at-large qualifiers. The 13 at-large teams are selected by a subcommittee ranked based on performance at both regionals and the rest of the season.
“If you’re third, you’re going to get in,” head coach Ron Helmer said. “If you’re fourth, you probably will get in. If you’re fifth, you better hope that you beat somebody that was pretty good.”
Helmer said he believes a third-place finish is well within reach for both the women’s and men’s teams. Indiana men rank No. 5 in the Great Lakes Region, with 30 teams competing in the race Friday. The women’s race will feature 33 teams, and Indiana enters at No. 7 in the region.
The runners have shown their potential in training, Helmer said, and if they translate those performances to the meet, Indiana can finish ahead of some teams who beat it earlier in the season.
“It’s all going to happen over the last thousand meters, so we've got to position ourselves, stay relaxed, stay in the race, and then reach down and do what we need to do to secure those final spots,” Helmer said.
In preparation for the meet, Helmer said the team has cut back on the mileage during training. He said the team's fitness is already built up at this point in the season, so he wants the team rested and mentally prepared for the meet.
Helmer said he also wants the confidence the team gained from its performance at the Big Ten Championships to carry over and help the team in the regional meet. Indiana had its best performance of the season at the conference championships and replicating the relaxed running from that meet will be a focus in the regional meet.
“It all sounds simple, but when you’re on the run and you can’t call a timeout to reassess, it’s not,” Helmer said.
On Friday, the Hoosier men will run seniors Jake Gebhardt, Arjun Jha, Ben Miller, Skylar Stidam, Ben Veatch, junior Austin Haskett and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Gabriel Sanchez.
Seniors Ana Barrott, Maddie Dalton, Sarah Schmitt, Hannah Stoffel, juniors Mikaela Ramirez, Alyssa Skorge and sophomore Mariah Wehrle will run for the Hoosier women.