West Lafayette, Ind. No. 18 Indiana was one of two Big Ten programs to record a top four finish in both the men’s and women’s races at the annual league cross country championships Sunday at the Varsity Cross Country Course in West Lafayette. After finishing ninth at last year’s meet, the Hoosier women’s team took third, and the men finished fourth for the second straight year.
IU women’s coach Judy Wilson and men’s coach Robert Chapman both emphasized that the Big Ten meet is the first part of a three-race season Both teams will be back in West Lafayette on Nov. 16 for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, and pending their performance there, will move on to the Nov. 25 NCAA Championships in Terre Haute.
“Our goal coming in was to win, but in order to do that, all five runners have to run well,” Wilson said.“Unfortunately, some of our runners lost focus midway through. That being said, to finish in the top three is great, considering that we were ninth last year.”
This is Indiana’s best finish in the Big Ten women’s race since the 1990 team won the title.
Chapman’s approach was to continue to build towards the regional and national competition.
“We’re putting more of our eggs in the NCAA basket rather than the Big Ten,” he said of the Hoosiers’ eighth top five finish in the last 11 years.“We didn’t over train for this meet, but we didn’t back off, either. Most teams tend to do that for league meets. We’re running the risk of slipping at this meet but hopefully moving ahead later in the month.”
From an individual records perspective, both teams had an historical day. For the first time in school history, three IU women’s runners earned all-league laurels in the same season. Junior Audrey Giesler ran a career-best 17:49 over 5K to finish sixth, followed by freshman Jessica Gall (11th, career-best 17:58.9) and junior Becky Obrecht (14th, 18:05).
Obrecht credits the Hoosiers’ remarkable improvement to team chemistry.
“It’s totally different from last year,” she said.“We have such high standards for ourselves and in each other. We came in pretty optimistic, and we’re not done yet. We’ll be back in two weeks.”
On the men’s side, redshirt freshmen John and Sean Jefferson become the first Hoosier rookies since Olympian Bob Kennedy to earn all-league honors in their inaugural campaign. John Jefferson finished the 8K race fourth with a career-best time of 24:07, while Sean was right behind him as usual, taking sixth with a career-best time of 24:13.
“People tend to forget about Sean, but has there been a meet this season where he wasn’t 4-5 seconds behind his brother?” Chapman asked.“Those guys are going to have unbelievable careers. Just look at what they’re doing as freshmen.”
The Indiana men had a game plan for Sunday’s race, and they worked to stick to it.
“They went out quicker at Pre-NCAAs, but it was still a quick start today,” John Jefferson said.“We stayed in a pack for the first 5K and then made our move on teams like Wisconsin.
“We had really high goals coming into this meet, and we didn’t quite make them. But we’re working towards districts and then hopefully surprising people at nationals.”
With five Big Ten men’s teams among the NCAA Top 20 and four women’s teams among the top 25, it was bound to be a competitive meet. On the men’s side, No. 11 Wisconsin took five of the top nine slots en route to the title, followed by No. 20 Ohio State and No. 12 Michigan. The No. 18 Hoosiers were followed by No. 15 Minnesota.
No. 24 Michigan won the women’s title, followed by No. 23 Michigan State and No. 18 Indiana. Penn State took fifth.