Indiana Men's Cross Country: 2006 Season Preview
Aug. 15, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - The Indiana men's cross country team is set for the 2006 campaign. This season, the Hoosiers will look to the development of their young runners to maintain the tradition of IU cross country excellence.
Now in his ninth season at the helm for the IU program, head coach Robert Chapman sees a lot of potential in the young Hoosier squad and believes that training is going to be a priority.
"We are going to be an extremely young team, but a very talented team this year." Chapman said. "Our focus will be on developing the younger athletes on the team and trying to get them up to the national level. We have had a lot of success over the years doing just that, and I expect this year to be no exception. Our goal is always to make the NCAA Championships, and this year it will be a good challenge, but this group has a lot of talent."
Indiana is coming off its fifth NCAA Championships appearance in the last six seasons. With the graduation of one of the most heralded classes in IU cross country history including three-time All-American Sean Jefferson, John Jefferson, Stephen Haas, Charlie Koeppen and Eric Redman, the Hoosiers have some big shoes to fill.
"We just graduated six student-athletes who had a combined total of 34 NCAA Championship appearances in cross country and track," Chapman said. "However, when we made the nationals for the first time in my tenure in 2000 and finished 17th in the country, our lineup was similar to what we have now. We had one senior and the rest freshmen and sophomores. I'm hoping history can repeat itself, and we plan to try a similar pattern of workouts and racing for this year's team as we did for the 2000 squad. This season, we are going to work hard and see where we can get."
Marcus Aguilar returns to the Hoosier lineup as IU's top runner. The Martinsville, Ind., product took 47th last season at the Big Ten Championships and 44th overall at the regional. Additionally, Aguilar was Indiana's third highest finisher at the NCAA meet behind Jefferson and Haas. This season, the Hoosiers will look to their only senior for leadership.
"As our only senior, we'll look to Marcus to provide leadership for our team," Chapman said. "He will be a great example to the younger team members."
Indiana also returns NCAA qualifier Brennon Plotner. Chapman believes that Plotner's success during the track seasons coupled with his national experience last season will pay dividends.
"Brennon has made some significant progress over the last two years, and he is substantially stronger than when he came in," Chapman said. "After running 3:52 last year in the 1500m, you can tell he is excited to take the next step."
"I've been very impressed with Mark's approach to training," Chapman said. "It is very clear that he has the make up and determination to succeed at a high level. Tim has fantastic talent, and he possesses a strong drive to train hard. It is only a matter of time before he is a player on the national level. Jordan has been extremely impressive and his top ten finish at the US Junior Nationals in cross country shows he can be a key for us this season."
Chapman also will look to a trio of redshirt freshmen to step up in 2006.
"We'll look to redshirt freshmen Tom Martin, Tyler McCreary, and Darryl Stevenson to continue to develop as cross country runners and contribute to our efforts," Chapman said. "These three are more mile-oriented in their make up, so we will have to see how they handle the transition to 10k cross country. From all indications, I think they can be very successful."
Indiana will host the 2006 Big Ten Championships for the first time since 1996. The world-class facility has held the national cross county meet five times and been the site of the conference meet on four occasions. In addition to the conference meet, the Hoosiers will play host to the Indiana Community 5K (Sept.1), the Indiana Open (Sept. 9) and the Indiana 4K Championships (Oct. 22). The home-heavy schedule should help the Hoosiers continue to be one of the top teams in the conference.
"Over the last seven years, our average placing at the Big Ten Championships is second-best in the conference, trailing only Wisconsin - demonstrating a consistency over the years," Chapman said. "This year's squad can continue that tradition of excellence."
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