Indiana Daily Student

Indiana cross country ends regular season with strong performance at Hoosier Invitational

<p>Indiana men&#x27;s cross country won the 8K race Sept. 4, 2021, at the IU Championship Course. Indiana men&#x27;s cross country finished in fourth, and Indiana women finished in fifth at the Big Ten Championships.</p>

Indiana men's cross country won the 8K race Sept. 4, 2021, at the IU Championship Course. Indiana men's cross country finished in fourth, and Indiana women finished in fifth at the Big Ten Championships.

On a cloudless, 55-degree day on the east side of Bloomington, head coach Ron Helmer watched as Indiana runners finished first in both the men’s 8K and women’s 6K races of the Hoosier Invitational. He said he was pleased with Friday’s results, but Helmer was more focused on how the meet helps the growth of the runners and the course as a whole.

The meet was the last of the season for the runners not moving onto regionals, Helmer said. Both races were unscored and only had about 20 competing runners representing four teams.

In the men’s 8K race, Indiana senior Keelan Grant finished first overall with a time of 25:25.97. Next across the line for Indiana was sophomore Paul Rushton in fifth, senior Aaron Bennett in sixth, junior Nick Couyoumjian in 15th and sophomore Jack Gillard in 16th. 

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By the midway point of the race, Grant distanced himself from the other runners and never let anyone seriously challenge him. After the race, Grant said it was the first time he’s ever been all alone at the front of a meet.

“It was tough having nobody to key off of, but also it felt pretty good," Grant said. “I’ve put myself in a really good position so let’s just keep it going.”

On the women’s side, senior Jenna Barker ran a 22:02.46 to place first. Following her for Indiana was graduate student Kelly Mindak in second, sophomore Lauryn Mick in third and sophomore Phoebe Bates in fourth. 

Barker, Mindak and Mick ran together through the first 2-kilometer lap, then separated on the second lap. Barker said they work on starting slow and retaining energy and planned to do that going into the race.

"That’s really how I prefer to run cross country," Barker said. "I just like to go out conservative and then really pick it up as the race continues."

Helmer said he was happy with how the runners performed and worked on improvement rather than just results.

"We had people doing things that, had we not done it, there would’ve been a hole somewhere," Helmer said. "To complete a good, solid race and feel like, 'Oh, I’m actually pretty good after all' is a far better mindset than sitting around wondering why you’re not racing well when you’re training well."

Among the competing runners, Helmer said he was particularly impressed with the efforts of middle-distance runners on the team who are more accustomed to track. Mindak, one of the team’s middle distance runners, said the goal is to build endurance and confidence so the runners are prepared once indoor track and field season starts.

"I’m leaving this cross country season with a good mindset overall," Mindak said. “Cross country is about working on endurance and becoming mentally stronger so I’m definitely leaving the season encouraged in that way."

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Indiana used to regularly host a large meet at the end of the regular season on the old Indiana Championship Cross Country Course but was unable to in recent years while the new course was being built. 

Now that the new Sam Bell Cross Country Course is open, Helmer said he hopes to build the meet back up.

“You need a season-culminating meet,” Helmer said. “You need something for these guys to say, ‘Cross country’s over and it’s time to take a little time down and get ready for indoor.’”

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