The Indiana mens and womens cross country teams begin the 2002 season Friday at the IU Open at the IU Cross Country Course. While they will be running different distances and courses throughout the season, each team hopes to end the year at the same destination The Wabash Valley Sports Center in Terre Haute, site of the 2002 NCAA Cross Country Championship on Nov. 25.
Were a long way from November, so we have to take each meet until then as a tune-up for those three big meets, mens coach Dr. Robert Chapman said, referring to the Nov. 3 Big Ten Championship in West Lafayette, the Nov. 16 NCAA Great Lakes Regional, and the Nov. 25 NCAAs, both in Terre Haute.
Womens coach Judy Wilson returns two of her top runners from last years Big Ten meet in sophomore Mindy Peterson and junior Becky Obrecht. She is counting on the experienced leadership of Peterson, Obrecht and junior Audrey Giesler, along with a talented freshman class, to pay big dividends this year.
This team is young, but gaining experience at the collegiate level, Wilson said. There is great team chemistry in this group. They are the most disciplined and focused group that I have ever coached. They are ready to do what it takes to win.
Chapman and Wilson each feel that their respective teams camaraderie is one of its biggest assets. The mens and womens teams each benefited from an off-campus preseason training camp. Wilson took her team to the Indiana Dunes in northeastern Indiana last week, and the mens team just returned from Chain-O-Lakes State Park near Ft. Wayne.
According to Chapman, this trip provided more than an opportunity to log miles.
(Senior) Kevin Chandler is from Noble County, and he suggested this as a place that might work out well, Chapman said. Its a great place to have good solid training. It has some nice cabins, plenty of trails and you can go fishing. While we work hard, it also allows us to relax as well.
The Indiana mens team also boasts a nice blend of youth and experience. Redshirt freshmen John Jefferson, Sean Jefferson and Stephen Haas highlight one of the nations top recruiting classes a year ago. When you consider that IU was one of just four programs nationally to have four separate athletes post times of 14:10 or better for 5,000 meters last season, and all four were either freshmen or sophomores in eligibility, its easy to see why Chapman is excited about the season. For the third straight year, the Hoosiers are ranked among the top 25 in the United States Cross Country Coaches Association poll (No. 23)
The womens newcomers are led by freshman Jessica Gall, the third state cross country champion in the last four years to sign with the Hoosiers. When Gall won the 2001 Indiana state title as a senior at West Lafayette, it marked her third straight top-10 finish at the state. She also won the 3200m state title in track, posting the fourth-fastest time by a female (10:38) in Indiana high school history.