Bloomington, IN - Indiana coach Dr. Robert Chapman has enjoyed considerable recruiting success throughout his career. For example, the Hoosiers were the only school in the nation to have three Footlocker finalists in the 2001 freshman class. While the arrival of these high school athletes has solidified IUs re-emergence on the national cross country scene, Jon Littles decision to transfer from Rutgers to Bloomington midway through the 2000-01 school year, had just as big an impact.
When Jon made the decision to join our program, it really gave a lot of us a lift because, for the first time, an athlete at another university recognized the development of our program, Chapman said. Jon looked at Indiana as having the kind of program that could help him achieve his goals. Anytime Jon is having an off day in practice and I try to back him off, he always said I didn't transfer to Indiana to back off. Everyone on our team has a lot of respect for that.
Particularly when you persevere through the 2001-02 school year that Little did, people are bound to notice.
The freshman year is so important, because that is when you form friendships and team chemistry starts to develop, Little said. I felt out of it when I first got here, because I was joining the team midstream. Then I had mono (mononucleosis), which didnt help, either.
According to NCAA rules, Little had to sit out the 2001 season after transferring. However, that did not prohibit him from enduring the ups and downs of the year with his teammates.
We peaked too soon, Little said. Our workouts schedules were such that we seemed to be more concerned with being IUs No. 1 runner at practice rather than running as a team.
Coach Chapman quickly set a new tone for IU in 2002.
Coach Chapman is so intense and focused, Little said. When we get on the starting line, we know that were best prepared to race.
Chapman earned his PhD in human performance and exercise physiology from Indiana in 1996, and he has done extensive research on how altitude training affects distance runners. He has shared this insight with his runners, and Little put this insight to use this summer in Big Bear, Calif., about an hour east of Los Angeles.
I know that Ryan Hall from Stanford works out there each summer, so I e-mailed him out of the blue, Little said. I knew (Villanovas) Nate Miller from high school, and he wanted to go, too. We all lived together out there for eight weeks, found jobs and worked out.
Little did not realize the full impact of the conditioning until he returned to Bloomington for preseason camp.
I had a flare-up of mono when I was out there, so it cut my training back for three weeks, Little said. So, when I got back to Bloomington, even though my mileage was down, I was still in decent shape because of the element in which I was training.
Jon is the first athlete I've had here who has taken advantage of altitude training during the summer, Chapman said. With my background in altitude research, it is something I hope more athletes will have the resources and the adventuresome spirit to try. Jon came back from altitude in California and he could really tell the impact it had on his fitness.
Indeed, Little hopes that his training in Big Bear pays dividends down the road.
I have certain goals for my career here, Little said. I want to run an 8:45 in the 3,000 steeplechase and be an All-American in cross country. You just have to patient and keep your timeline in mind.