Indiana Daily Student

Indiana cross country to honor head coach Ron Helmer’s legacy at Coaching Tree Invitational

<p>Then-senior Arjun Jha runs during NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 12, 2021, in Evansville, Indiana. IU will host the Coaching Tree Invitational to honor the legacy of head coach Ron Helmer on Sept. 16.</p>

Then-senior Arjun Jha runs during NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 12, 2021, in Evansville, Indiana. IU will host the Coaching Tree Invitational to honor the legacy of head coach Ron Helmer on Sept. 16.

Indiana cross country continues its season at the Coaching Tree Invitational 10 a.m. Friday in Bloomington. The women’s team will compete in a 6K race at 10 a.m. followed by the men’s team 8K at 10:45 a.m. all at the Sam Bell Cross Country Course.  

The event will feature schools from across the country that are coached by runners who used to train under or work with Indiana cross country head coach Ron Helmer. 

Helmer announced his retirement in April. Many past runners from Helmer’s eight-year coaching career at Georgetown University and 16-year career at Indiana will be in attendance at the invitational. According to the official Indiana’s cross country and track team Twitter account, five former Hoosier runners will coach in the invitational.  

Graduate student Sarah Schmitt is currently in her fifth season with the Hoosiers. She said she feels proud for being someone who Helmer has impacted.  

“I’m attached to his name — he has shaped me and helped me grow into the runner that I am today,” Schmitt said. “I’m among many, many great names that he’s coached.”  

Schmitt said she expects their commitment to this meet to be that of any other meet. The team knows Helmer will expect it to put its best effort into the meet, she said.  

[Related: Indiana cross country women place second, men place third at Redhawk Rumble to open season]

Although it is an invitational, Helmer said he expects every team to compete to the best of its ability.  

“On Friday morning, I would anticipate that people go at it really hard like they always would,” Helmer said. “There may not be the same kind of focus, but there’s going to be a focus on the competition for sure.” 

Helmer’s coaching career spans half a century. He said the secret to longevity in the coaching profession is to take the bad and turn it into good. This spirit of determination and perseverance is the template Helmer used to coach all his runners, he said.  

“They may not have known that in the first place, but they’ve all been up to that challenge,” Helmer said. “That’s not all because of me, but I hope that I modeled that for them when they were either working for me or running for me.” 

At the meet, Indiana will host Columbia University, the University of North Carolina, Villanova University’s women’s team, Georgetown, George Washington University, Elon University’s women’s team, Vanderbilt University, Miami University, Ohio University, the University of South Dakota and Northern Arizona University — whose men’s team has won the last five straight national championships.

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