Helmer Welcomes An Elite Group of Freshmen
July 30, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - With the 2007 cross country season quickly approaching, the Hoosiers will look to a very strong returning class that features redshirt sophomore Jordan Kyle, who earned his first career All-America honor in 2006. But the Hoosiers will have a little more to look to this year as IU welcomes an incoming class of seven freshmen, including six that were born Hoosiers.
Those six freshmen made their mark on the Indiana high school cross country scene this past season. IU's incoming class is led by De'Sean Turner, who helped lead Warren Central (Indianapolis) to a state championship his senior year by winning the individual title in 15:54.3. He will be joined by Cole Hardacre from Pendleton Heights High School, who finished third overall in the state meet with a time of 16:08.6. Danny Stockberger was instrumental in getting McCutcheon (Lafayette) High School a fourth-place team finish as he crossed the finish line in sixth with a time of 16:15.2. He was followed by Jacob Rich, who placed seventh with a time of 16:17.5, helping Carmel finish fifth as a team. Andrew Poore from Bishop Chatard (Indianapolis) High School placed 15th overall with a time of 16:26.8, and Andy Weatherford finished 20th for Greencastle High School with a time of 16:39.0.
"I think the key thing is that Indiana did a great job of recruiting Indiana and I don't take any credit for that," Ron Helmer, IU Head Cross Country Coach said. "I have met all six of these guys. It's a diverse group of personalities and a diverse group of backgrounds. They all bring something different. Some will definitely be great 5,000- and 10,000-meter runners, we have a great miler or two in the group and we have Stockberger, who was the state champion in the 800-meters."
The group of six freshmen from the Hoosier State is also very familiar with the facilities in Bloomington, as IU is the host of the Indiana state indoor and outdoor high school meets. This past year, Poore claimed the indoor title in the 3,200-meters (9:12.34) on March 17 at the Harry Gladstein Fieldhouse. He was followed by Weatherford in third place with a time of 9:38.50 in the Class 1A-3A state meet. Poore and Weatherford were also successful in the distance medley relay event as Poore helped lead Bishop Chatard to the state title with a time of 10:48.33, and Weatherford helped Greencastle to a third-place finish (11:09.89). In the Class 4A-5A meet, Rich placed third in the same event with a time of 9:21.06. Rich was also a part of the state champion distance medley relay team as Carmel took the title in 10:29.95. Turner was on the second-place Warren Central team that clocked a time of 10:30.18, and Hardacre helped Pendelton Heights finish among the top 10 with a time of 10:53.49.
"They have all had success on our tracks at the state meet and we think that is a great benefit to us to be able to host the state track meets and expose as many people as possible to our facilities," Helmer said.
The outdoor state championship was just as rewarding, as Stockberger claimed the 800-meter title with a time of 1:52.67. Turner won the 1,600-meter title in 4:08.34 and was the runner-up in the 800 (1:54.34), and Hardacre (9:04.55) and Poore (9:06.97) took second and third, respectively, in the 3,200-meters.
However, this young group of Hoosiers will take their first true test when they return to where they completed their high school cross country careers. The 2007 NCAA Championships will take place on the LaVern Gibson Golf Course in Terre Haute, the site of the 2006 IHSAA State Championships, where Turner took home the individual title and helped Warren Central win the team championship.
"You would hope that they have a comfort level there and a pride level that when they do go back to the national championship on the course where they ran the state meet that not only do they have some very positive feelings about how they have performed on that course before, but hopefully there is also a sense of pride in the fact that they are Indiana people running a national meet in Indiana on a course where they have previously had a lot of success," Helmer said.
One aspect that wasn't with them in 2006 was the Hoosiers' seventh freshman, Ben Hubers. Hubers comes to IU from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Ga., and brings in a little more national experience to the Hoosiers' resume. He capped off his senior campaign with an 11th place finish at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships with a time of 15:36 in the national meet and placed second in the south regional meet with a time of 14:51. Hubers was also the 2006 Georgia state runner-up and the 2005 state champion in cross country. The three-time All-American was also a three-time state champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and was the third-place finisher in the mile in 2006 and 2007 at the Nike Indoor Nationals.
"Not only do our recruits bring some cross country potential, but they will help us cover a lot of events on the track," Helmer said. "You take these six guys and Hubers, and you have an outstanding group. What we do with them is the key and how long it takes them to grow, mature and become a team and do the things we need for them to do to have success at the Division I and Big Ten level - that's always the unknown. However, the ingredients are there and I am really looking forward to working with them. It says a lot about the state of Indiana and the kind of athletes that it produces and the loyalty and desire that they have to attend Indiana University."
With a solid group of veterans that includes an NCAA All-American and a group that boasts four high school All-Americans, Helmer has quite an inaugural year in store.
"The big picture for me in my first year is the vision of where we would like this program to go over the course of the next three of four years," Helmer said. "What was put in our lap was a number of outstanding student-athletes, a majority of which are Indiana kids, who have the opportunity to be a part of this building process and hopefully some great success during the four or five years that they are at IU. As a result of their contributions, I think that will go a long ways towards creating credibility for us within the state of Indiana and should help us recruit even more effectively as we go forward."
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