2008 Indiana Men's Cross Country Season Preview
Aug. 21, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - IU head coach Ron Helmer returns a young group that includes just two seniors among two juniors and four sophomores. His two seniors, Brennon Plotner (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) and Timothy McLeod (Tucson, Ariz./Catalina Foothills), have been fixtures in the Hoosiers' top seven throughout their careers and will be looked to in maintaining that role and helping a talented group of newcomers develop along the way.
"We're still very young with primarily sophomores and freshmen on the roster, so we have to have effective leadership from both Brennon and Tim," Helmer said. "Both of them have positioned themselves to provide that. During the transition period, they really rose to the challenge of providing leadership for us and gaining respect of the younger student-athletes. I'm confident that they will provide the same leadership this year."
One of IU's sophomores is Cole Hardacre (Anderson, Ind./Pendelton Heights), who was the Hoosiers' top finisher at the Big Ten Championships a year ago and provided a solid mix among IU's pack throughout the season.
"Cole came in a talented student-athlete, not necessarily a can't miss athlete, but really performed at a high level as a freshman and I don't think was at all mislead or misunderstood the process that he was involved in," said Helmer. "He performed well and was working hard, but he also came out knowing that he had so much more that he could do and so much more that he need to do. Beyond that, as a freshman, he showed the extraordinary maturity that really helped set expectations for a whole new group of freshmen not just on the track, but away from the track as well."
Another sophomore standout will be Ben Hubers (Marietta, Ga./McEachern). He began to make his impact later in the season and was the second Hoosier to cross the finish at the NCAA Championships.
"Ben is a great talent. He takes a lot of pride in performance and he loves to compete. He's not yet ready to engage himself in just grind-it-out training, although, in terms of consistent training, he has continued to grow all the way along," Helmer said. "We were able to run personal bests every time he had the opportunity all the way through indoor and outdoor track and field. I know its going to show up on the cross country course this fall. He still has a long way to go as a distance runner, because he has a middle distance runner mind-set. But time will be his greatest asset in developing into a cross country distance runner. I think he will run at a very high level this year."
IU also returns redshirt-juniors Evan Bardach (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) and Tom Martin (Carmel, Ind./Carmel), and sophomore Jacob Rich (Indianapolis, Ind./Carmel), who made his way into Indiana's seven and posted personal bests throughout the season.
Helmer's class of newcomers includes a trio of very talented redshirt-freshmen, a transfer and five true freshmen, four of which are Hoosier State natives.
Redshirt-freshmen Andrew Poore (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Cathedral), De'Sean Turner (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central) and Andy Weatherford (Greencastle, Ind./Greencastle) will make their way into IU's seven this season after successful indoor and outdoor seasons.
"Those redshirt-freshmen, particularly the two that ran well during indoor and outdoor, will make a big impact," Helmer said. "De'Sean placed third at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in the 800 and Andy was a regional qualifier in the steeplechase during outdoor, so those two guys have shown talent. We knew they were talented because of the success they had in high school, but they've also really bought into what we're doing."
"Andrew may be as talented as anyone we have," Helmer added. "We redshirted him all last year and he trained really well over the summer. He has the desire and the ability to play a major part in what we do this year. I'm counting on those three a lot, not just because they all have the ability to run in the top five, but they are just very talented kids. Those three, along with Cole and Ben, and then we have Jake (Rich) and transfer Jacob Laird, have the potential to be really good among our top seven."
Helmer's group of true freshmen also bring in quality high school experience and a familiarity with some of the venues the Hoosiers will be competing on. Four of the five freshmen are from the state of Indiana and have competed at the site of the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute at the Indiana state meet, and have also competed on both of IU's indoor and outdoor tracks during those respective state championships.
Andy Bayer (Leo, Ind./Leo) holds school records in the 1,600 (4:12), 3,200 (9:02) and in the 5,000-meters (15:44). He was the 2008 Indiana state champion in the 3,200 and was an all-state honoree in cross country after a sixth-place finish. Ben Bizuneh (Indianapolis/Pike) was the 2007 cross country regional champion and earned all-state honors and all-Midwest honors at Foot Locker as a senior. He holds a personal-best 5K time of 15:36). Zack Mayhew (Terre Haute, Ind./North) earned first-team all-state in cross country and track field in 2007, and helped Terre Haute North to a regional cross country title as a senior. Nate Morrow (Auburn, Ind./DeKalb) owns personal-bests in the 5K (15:32), 1,600- meters (4:21) and in the 3,200-meters (9:18). He was a fifth-place finisher at the state meet in the 3,200-meters. Justin Soderlund (Wheaton, Ill./North) earned cross country all-conference honors during his junior and senior seasons, and was a state qualifier in the 3,200-meters as a senior.
"Our freshmen class is an exciting group because they were all just starting to come on during track and field last year," Helmer said. "Andy Bayer came the farthest. He ended up winning at the state meet in the 3,200. His time was 9:02, which I thought was a really good time in the weather conditions that he had to compete in. He's the one in the group that would probably have the best shot in breaking into the top-seven this year as a freshman. If he's ready to the do that, then we'll put him out there."
"Ben, Nate and Zach are three more Indiana kids, all of whom show the potential physically, as well as character-wise," Helmer added. "I know they are going to end up being a big part of what we do in the future. They are training really well this summer and with the fall training we'll see where they can go."
THE 2008 SCHEDULE
Following the Hoosiers' first two weekends at home, IU will hit the road for the remainder of the season beginning with the historic Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree on Saturday, Oct. 4, in Stillwater. IU will then compete in the Pre-Nationals meet on Saturday, Oct. 18 in Terre Haute, Ind., before traveling to Ann Arbor on Sunday, Nov. 2 for the 2008 Big Ten Championships, hosted by the University of Michigan.
"We have a schedule that will give our student-athletes an opportunity to experience both the tradition and the diversity that make up collegiate cross country," Helmer said. "Our home meets are run on one of the finest cross country courses in the country, the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree is one of the oldest invitational's in the country. These meets, along with the Pre-Nationals should prepare us to have an outstanding conclusion to our season at the Big Ten and NCAA championships."
Competition in the month of November continues with the Great Lakes Region Championships, hosted by Purdue, on Saturday, Nov. 15 in West Lafayette, Ind. The season concludes in Terre Haute at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday, Nov. 24.
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