This weekend's meets open the month of February for IU track and field, which means it is time for the second episode of At the Track. Coach Helmer shares his thoughts on his team's progression, Zach Mayhew's emergence, Nick Stoner's debut, what to expect in the month of February, the new NCAA qualifying system, hosting high-level meets, as well as the Super Bowl and college hoops.
The 2013 indoor track and field season hits full swing for the Hoosiers this weekend as they host Purdue. Ron Helmer sat down for a chat at the track in the first monthly installment of At the Track, to talk about the season ahead, dealing with the expectations of returning some of the nation's top athletes, potential breakout athletes and made his picks for the Super Bowl.
ALL-AMERICANS - 396
NATIONAL CHAMPIONS - 8
NATIONAL ATHLETES OF THE YEAR - 1
NCAA TOP-10 TEAMS - 27
BIG TEN CHAMPIONS - 33
BIG TEN ATHLETES OF THE YEAR - 7
BIG TEN FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR - 2
BIG TEN COACH OF THE YEAR - 1
GREAT LAKES ATHLETES OF THE YEAR - 11
GREAT LAKES COACH OF THE YEAR - 1
BIG EAST CHAMPIONS - 213
BIG EAST TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS - 15
ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICANS - 9
Ron Helmer is in his sixth season as the Indiana Director and Head Coach of Men's and Women's Track and Field and Cross Country after being named to the position on May 25, 2007.
The 2011-12 season was the fifth under Helmer's guidance, and it proved to be one of the greatest ever for the men's program. After a cross country campaign that ended with a runner-up finish at Big Tens and a seventh-place finish at NCAAs, the team won the Big Ten Indoor title behind 26 points from Andy Bayer and 22 from Kind Butler, taking the first conference title in 20 years. Bayer won the Big Ten mile and 3,000m crowns, while Butler won the 200 and Darius King won the high jump. The Hoosiers went on to send 11 to the NCAA Indoor meet, with all 11 coming back All-Americans. The team finished sixth at the national meet, scoring 25 points, including second place finishes in the distance medley relay and from King in the high jump.
The 2012 outdoor season saw the Hoosiers take third in the Big Ten, getting individual titles from Bayer int eh 1,500m, Zach Mayhew in the 10,000m and Derek Drouin in the high jump. Bayer would go on to lead 14 NCAA qualifiers by winning the 1,500m NCAA title en route to 11 Hoosiers earning All-America honors. Bayer's title is the eighth by a Helmer pupil, and the fourth since Helmer arrived at IU. Bayer and Chelsea Blanchard earned Academic All-America honors for the second consecutive season. Drouin was the NCAA runner-up in a season that was just getting started for him. Drouin went on to qualify for the London Olympics, where he tied for third place to win a bronze medal for Canada. Drouin was awarded for Athletics Canada's performance of the year and as the field athlete of the year.
The fourth year of the Helmer era, the 2010-11 season was a historic one for the Hoosiers program. The season included two top-10 NCAA finishes, two Big Ten runner-up finishes, 26 All-Americans, one NCAA Individual Championship and four Big Ten records. Helmer was awarded USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year honors for the Indoor season. At the season's conclusion, five Hoosiers were honored with the distinquished Academic All-America award. Bayer became the first male track athlete in school history to be honored and was joined by Blanchard, Vera Neuenswander, Sarah Pease and Faith Sherrill.
The men's cross country team got things started, taking seventh at NCAAs and second at Big Tens, with Andrew Poore finishing as an All-American and Bayer placing second at the Big Ten meet.
Indoors, the IU men were again runners-up behind Big Ten Champions Butler (60m), Drouin (High Jump) and Poore (5,000m). Faith Sherrill won the Big Ten shot put crown for the women. At NCAAs, the Hoosiers finished sixth with Drouin winning his third NCAA high jump crown with a Big Ten and Canadian national record clearance of 2.33m (7-7.75) en route to USTFCCCA Field Athlete of the Year honors and Bayer highlighting nine other All-Americans for IU at the meet. Bayer took third in the 3,000m and led the Hoosiers to second in the DMR, clocking the fastest anchor leg ever recorded, splitting 3:53. Sherrill broke the all-time Big Ten record by 2 feet and 6.5 inches in the shot put with her first throw of the season. Travelling 18.00m (59-0.75), Sherrill has the 10th-best collegiate throw all-time and the eighth-best collegiate throw ever by an American. Bayer, Drouin and Sherrill each garnered Big Ten Athlete of the Year honors and Great Lakes Region Athlete of the year honors for the indoor season.
Outdoors, the women took third at Big Tens and 23rd at NCAAs and the men took fourth at Big Tens and 20th at NCAAs. Ben Hubers (1,500m), Neuenswander (pole vault), Pease (steeplechase), Sherrill (shot put) and De'Sean Turner (steeplechase) claimed Big Ten titles and 12 Hoosiers earned All-America honors. Neuenswander tied the Big Ten record in the pole vault to win at Big Tens, clearing 4.36m (14-3.5) to put the exclamation point on a 1-2 finish with teammate Kelsie Ahbe. Neuenswander and Ahbe went on to All-American finishes at NCAAs. Sherrill broke the Big Ten outdoor record in the shot put, launching a 17.64m (57-10.5) bomb to win at Penn Relays. Pease won her first Big Ten crown in the steeple, joining Turner in leading what was dubbed the "sweeplechase", as IU had three of the top four finishers in both the men's and women's races at Big Tens. At NCAAs, Poore led the way, taking third in the steeplechase. It was a historic season in the 4x100m relay for the Hoosiers, as Tyler Sult, Butler, Chris Vaughn and Devin Pipkin became the first All-American relay for IU in 30 years. At Penn Relays, IU was the only school from the North to qualify for the 4x100 and 4x200 Championship of America finals.
Helmer's third year at Indiana proved to be record-setting. The Indiana women advanced to the NCAA Championships in cross country for the first time since 2004. With 13 indoor All-Americans, Helmer's squads produced more All-America certificates than any other indoor season in IU history. The IU men finished sixth overall at NCAA Indoors, marking the best performance by an IU team since the 2005 meet.
Not to be outdone, the Hoosier women posted a 16th-place finish at the NCAA outdoor meet, while the men took 20th. Indiana finished the year with 18 All-Americans, nine Big Ten champions and three Big Ten Athlete of the Year Awards.
The biggest highlight of the year for Indiana in 2010 was Drouin. The sophomore won NCAA titles during the indoor and outdoor seasons in the high jump. He was named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year for both seasons as well. Drouin also added the Canadian National Championship to his credit on the season.
On the women's side, Molly Beckwith highlighted the season with a second-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 800m. Beckwith followed her NCAA performance with a tour of Europe, where she finished an 800m race in 1:59.83. That performance merited a professional contract with Saucony.
Bayer had a remarkable indoor campaign, breaking four minutes in the mile and eight minutes in the 3,000m, and then taking third at NCAAs in the 3,000m a day after posting an astonishing comeback for seventh place in the distance medley relay after dropping the baton. He was joined by Poore as an All-American in the 3,000m. De'Sean Turner, Butler and Stockberger were also on the DMR. Turner added All-America honors to his resume in the steeplechase outdoors.
Juniors Sherrill and Pease had breakout seasons in 2010. Sherrill was the Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year after smashing three IU records in the throws and earning three All-America certificates. She also took two Big Ten titles, indoors in the weight throw and outdoors in the shot put. Pease made a name for herself in the 3,000m steeplechase, taking fourth at both the NCAA Championships and the USA Championships. Ashley Rhoades earned All-America honors at the NCAA indoor meet in the high jump.
Indiana track and field showed itself as a program on the rise in 2009, registering eight All-Americans across all three seasons. During the cross country season, Helmer had two of his pupils earn All-
Big Ten honors, in Tim McLeod and Wendi Robinson. Robinson later qualified for the NCAA Championships, where she earned All-America honors in 28th-place.
During the indoor season, Helmer saw Big Ten title wins from Tiffany Howard (shot put) and Jeff Coover (pole vault). He also saw Beckwith and Drouin earn All-Big Ten honors. Coover was named Great Lakes Region Field Athlete of the Year and went on to earn All-America honors for a fourth-place finish in the pole vault. Drouin went on to finish as the NCAA runner-up in the high jump, and Neuenswander and the team's distance medley relay foursome each claimed All-America honors. In total, nine Hoosiers made the trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas.
The outdoor slate saw the Hoosiers claim three more All-America certificates and three more Big Ten titles. Drouin (high jump), Kiwan Lawson (long jump) and Rhoades (high jump) all won Big Ten crowns, and three more IU athletes earned All-Big Ten honors. Drouin was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and went on to claim Great Lakes Region Athlete of the Year. Twenty-three Hoosiers made the trip to the Mideast Regional and seven advanced to the NCAA Championships. Neuenswander and Drouin each won the regional. At the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville Ark., Howard, Pease and Neuenswander claimed All-America honors. Neuenswander finished second in the pole vault. Neuenswander went on to garner ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America honors.
In his first season at the helm of the Hoosiers, Helmer guided the men's and women's track and field teams to improvements during the indoor and outdoor seasons. The indoor portion of the year was highlighted by a Big Ten individual championship for Audrey Smoot in the 600-meter run. The indoor season culminated in a trio of Hoosiers representing the women's team at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Helmer's first outdoor season at IU also proved successful as Indiana had two Big Ten individual champions with Jenkins in the triple jump and Lawson in the long jump. The success from the Big Ten Championships led to seven student-athletes from Indiana competing in the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The Hoosiers produced two All-Americans in Lawson and Coover.
Helmer also helped two young cross country squads to new heights with fresh faces on the staff and on the roster. On the men's side, Helmer led Indiana to its first team appearance in the NCAA Championships since 2005 with a group that included three true freshmen. IU, led by junior McLeod, placed 28th overall as a team after a fourth place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
Prior to coming to IU, Helmer served as the director and head coach at Georgetown University for eight years. He was promoted to director in July 1999 after serving as associate head coach with the Hoyas for seven seasons and assistant coach the five years prior. During his tenure, 120 of his student-athletes earned a total of 342 All-America recognitions, including 41 student-athletes receiving 96 certificates since becoming director in 1999. In addition, 219 student-athletes captured BIG EAST individual titles, including 67 after he became director.
At the NCAA Championships, he guided 27 athletes or relay teams to a top-three finish, highlighted by four national champions - Joline Staeheli (mile, 1996), Miesha Marzell (1500m, 1996) and two distance medley relay champions (1997, 1999). He also saw his teams earn 22 top-10 finishes in NCAA Championship action, including a streak of 15 straight at the cross country championships that ended in 2003. Among the top-10 finishes were seven top-four trophy finishes, including a third at the 1998 NCAA Indoor Championships and a fourth-place finish at the 2002 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Helmer led Hoya teams to the Championship of America relay titles at the Penn Relays, the latest being the 2004 men's 4x800m squad with a time of 7:13.75, the seventh-fastest time in collegiate history. He was part of 37 BIG EAST Championship teams and his student-athletes were honored 11 times as the Robert A. Duffey Scholar-Athlete award winner, given to the student-athlete who best embodies academic and athletic excellence.
In January 2006, Helmer was the recipient of the Coaches Achievement Program award presented by Oppenheimer Funds, Inc. The Coaches Achievement Program honors coaches at select BIG EAST member institutions for excellence in coaching, mentoring and community service.
Helmer came to Georgetown from Woodbridge High School in Virginia, where he served as head coach for four years. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Virginia High School in Bristol, Va., for eight years.
He was named Virginia Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1980 and 1983, along with being selected as the Virginia Girls' Track Coach of the Year in 1981. Topping off the honors, Helmer was selected as the Boys' Cross Country Coach of the Decade in Virginia. During his career, Helmer's teams won 45 district, 35 regional and 10 state championships. Individually, he produced nine high school All-Americans and 13 Foot Locker National Cross Country qualifiers.
Helmer is a graduate of Southwestern College located in Winfield, Kan., where he received a bachelor of arts degree in math. In October 2004, he was inducted into the Southwestern College Athletic Hall of Fame. He continued his education at East Tennessee State University, where he earned his master's degree in physical education, with a focus in biomechanics and human kinetics.
Helmer's wife, Mary, is a seventh-grade teacher. They have three children, Tori, a teacher, Justin, a teacher and basketball and track coach, and Kari, a recent graduate of IU, and a granddaughter - Rylee and a grandson - Brody.