Men's Distance Runners Look for More Success at NCAAs
May 31, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - In the last four years, the Indiana indoor and outdoor track and field program has produced four All-American athletes (Sean Jefferson, John Jefferson, Stephen Haas and Chris Powers) in either the mile, 1500m, 3000m or 5000m. John Jefferson (1500m) and Haas (10000m) will look to add to their accolades at the NCAA Championships June 7-10 in Sacramento.
Indiana assistant track coach and head cross country coach Robert Chapman is proud of Jefferson and Haas' accomplishments, and even more proud of their development as top-tier athletes.
"Although they were very focused and determined from the start, it really is a learning process to know how to live and train at an elite level," Chapman said. "Combined with their talent, learning this approach has been a big factor in their success."
In addition to the track and field success, Chapman has re-established the Hoosiers' cross country program at a national level. IU has made five straight NCAA cross country championship appearances, including a 12th place finish in 2003.
Just as Chapman's runners have developed throughout their career, Chapman has also grown as a coach.
"As they have progressed through the years, they and I have learned more about what specific pattern of workouts and preparation works best for them," Chapman said. "There are a lot of variables to manipulate with volume, intensity, rest, speed, etc. Even how they mentally prepare, we know what seems to work best for them. A lot of this they have learned from the experience of the championships they ran in starting with their freshman year."
According to the eighth-year Hoosier head coach, this collective maturation could pay significant dividends in Sacramento.
"In my opinion, the biggest positive of this experience is how it allows them to really relax and focus on the task they have to complete," Chapman said. "When you have been is as many championship meets as these guys have, they develop a sense of calmness about the event and can really just go out and execute."
When Chapman took over the Indiana men's distance program in 1998, he relied on some his first recruits - Powers, Chad Andrews, Bart Phariss, Nathan Gooden, Jeff Zeha, Nathan Purcell and Matt Sweetman - to help return Indiana to the national level. The Jefferson twins, Haas and Eric Redman have elevated the Hoosiers' profile even higher, and the challenge is to build and sustain this success.
" I talk frequently about how the class of 2004 - guys like Powers, Andrews, Phariss, Gooden, Zeha, Purcell, Sweetman - those guys started everything that we are today. They were the group that took this program to the national level," Chapman said. "This class of 2006 - the Jeffersons, Haas, Redman, (Charlie) Koeppen, and (Billy) Coale - they are the ones who elevated this program another notch by consistently performing at a national elite level. Between those six athletes, they have a combined 34 NCAA national championship appearances in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track. It includes an NCAA Champion, two NCAA runner-ups, four Big Ten titles, and 12 All-Americans (with hopefully more to come). They have been an amazing class, perhaps unparalleled in school history."
Indeed, these former and current student-athletes give Chapman plenty of ammunition for the challenges that lie ahead.
"Our sport is very developmental. It takes time, persistence and patience to get to the elite level. Because our older guys are so fit and are training at such a high level, sometimes the younger guys get discouraged and don't think they will ever get there. I have to constantly tell stories about the kinds of workouts that the Jeffersons, Haas, Powers, Andrews, etc. were doing as freshmen, and how their workouts are very similar. We live in an instant gratification world, and we are far from an instant gratification sport."
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