Bloomington, Ind. - The Indiana men's and women's cross country teams return to action Friday afternoon when they host the 64th annual Indiana Intercollegiates at the IU Cross Country Course. This is the 14th time that the Hoosiers have hosted the yearly gathering of all of the university and college teams in the state, and both men's coach Robert Chapman and women's coach Judy Wilson are looking for their respective teams to maximize their home course advantage.
For Chapman's No. 23 ranked Hoosiers, this marks the first meet since the Aug. 30 Indiana Open. In many sports, athletes and coaches look to avoid a three-week layoff. But as Indiana sophomore Kurtis George points out, such scheduling is ideal for cross country.
"You can't race every weekend. It takes too much out of you. You'd be done," George said. "The way our schedule plays out, you have a couple of weeks to condition, log some good mileage and stay healthy."
During the 2001 season, Indiana found out the hard way how important it is to balance practice and meets.
"Our practices were so intense last year, that became more of our focus than the meets," George said. "It's different for everyone - for me, as soon as you have a good race, it can set the tone for the season."
According to junior Tom Burns, the 2000 and 2001 campaigns are paying dividends this autumn.
"Last year, we got a little complacent because the year before (2000), we went to the NCAAs," Burns said. "Last year, we ran hard early in the season, and we were fatigued later in the year. This year, we started out at the right pace, and we're really logging high mileage right now."
On the women's side, Wilson has been pleased with her team's development this season. At the Indiana Open, the Hoosiers took four of the top five spots, outdistancing a five-team field that included 2001 NCAA Championship-qualifying team South Florida.
"We have got some girls nicked up, fighting the bug, a little under the weather," she said. "This gave us some time to rest up."
Wilson said that for the past few weeks, she has been working her team in three groups between five and seven runners each. This allows her to tailor her workouts more to her runners' specific needs.
"Especially with the unusually warm weather this time of year, we have some runners who do not do as well in the heat," she said. "So, we can tone down the mileage on those runners and still keep them in shape."
Sophomore Mindy Peterson earned Big Ten Runner of the Week honors for her performance at the Indiana Open, posting the third-best 5K time of her young career (18:12). Juniors Becky Obrecht and Audrey Giesler are among IU's top three performers, while freshmen Jessica Gall and Lindsay Hattendorf rounded out the top five in the Hoosiers' season opener.
Four Indiana runners - Kelly Siefker, Larra Overton, Valerie Rago and Allison Miller - each finished among the top 16 at the Purdue Alumni Superstition Open on Sept. 13 in West Lafayette. This is the same cross country course that will host the Nov. 3 Big Ten Championships.
Siefker was the Hoosiers' top finisher, taking third place after covering the 5K course in 19:14.8. Siefker is a highly-touted freshman track athlete who is in her first year of cross country after playing soccer each fall in high school. Friday's 5K performance was 25 seconds better than her time of 19:39 at the Aug. 30 Indiana Open.
"Kelly is our wild card. She thrives on competition and could be a top five runner for us," Wilson said.
The Indiana Intercollegiates Open race is slated for 3:45 p.m. Friday, followed by the women's 5K at 4:45 and the men's 8K at 5:10.