A Pack of Runners
Oct. 26, 2009
Andrew Poore stood motionless at the starling line, with 385 runners from 42 different schools. As the five mile race progressed, Poore watched as runners began to dwindle from the front, but he stayed strong. Near the end of the race he looked to his left and looked to his right and saw familiar Hoosier jerseys on both sides of him. When he crossed the finish line he was one of four IU athletes to finish in the top 10 at the Paul Short Run in Pennsylvania.
The men's cross country team won the meet, overcoming then No. 7 Iona and No. 19 North Carolina State.
In a sport that is often though of as an individual contest, the IU cross country team embraces the team aspect and feels it is an important reason for their success this season.
Poore said one of benefits of running with his teammates is having a level of comfort in races.
"When you're put yourself in racing situations, racing with 150 to 200 people and 30 to 40 different teams at the national or regional meet, you benefit a lot from finding your teammates and putting yourself in a comfortable situation," he said. "A lot of times that will produce a better result then if you were all alone."
Although there are individual championships to be won in cross country, the team title is also something athletes strive for. In any given race the top five athletes make up the team score. The places of those five runners are added up, and the lowest score wins. In the Sam Bell Invitational earlier this year the Hoosiers swept the field, earning the top seven spots and a perfect team score of 15. The seven runners were only separated by 46 seconds.
Having seven runners, especially when they are all solid athletes, is important even though only the top five score. On any given day, one runner might feel better than others and the team can help each other when they run together.
Sophomore De'Sean Turner, who placed fifth in the Sam Bell Invitational said he thinks running with a pack of his teammates helps him excel.
"It's more motivation for everyone else to know that there are five, six, seven other guys right there that can pull you along," Turner said.
The effects of running together also come into play during practices, where workouts are designed to push the runners much further then their comfort level. Poore said when the team does workouts that are about making the athletes hurt, it is important to have people running together and constantly pushing the pace.
Poore added that another way the team atmosphere helps is when the weather conditions get so cold that sweat can drip down your face and turn to frost before it hits the ground, the group still runs.
"A lot of times when your running in the winter, my biggest motivation is knowing that if I don't go out and run there are a lot more people that suffer from that decision than myself," he said. "I always feel like what I do everyday and go out and run every mile it's not just for myself it's for the coaches, this program and my teammates. A lot of times that's what gets me excited to run, the opportunity to represent my school and compete and have success with those guys."
Outside of running, both Turner and Poore said they believe the team gets along great, with even the freshman being instantly integrated with everyone else. With these athletes running upwards of 90 miles a week at times, it's beneficial for them to be good friends and to support each other on the roads and trails, running side by side.
Even when it comes to doing a hard workout or running a high magnitude race, Poore said his teammates have fun, cracking jokes along the way.
This year the Hoosier cross country team is running in a pack, and more importantly competing at a high level together.
IU coach Ron Helmer said that even though he doesn't know exactly what that will mean later in the season, with the Big Ten Championships coming up this weekend he has a good feeling.
"If we execute well as a group in a high pressure situation the end result should be something we can take great pride in," Helmer said.
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