Men's And Women's Cross Country Season In Review
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The men's and women's cross country teams had successful campaigns in 2004. Both teams reached the NCAA Championship for a third consecutive year and both had several individual and team accolades throughout the 2004 season.
On the women's side, it was sophomore Jessica Gall who proved to be the team leader during the season. Gall finished the season like she runs a race, making a strong kick at the end. Gall began her hot streak at the Big Ten Championship on Oct. 31. While there, Gall placed third overall to earn first team All-Big Ten accolades. Following that performance, she picked up the pace at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional placing fifth overall to garner all-region honors. She then made a strong performance pay off at the NCAA Championship with an 18th-place finish to become only the eighth runner in school history to be tabbed All-America. Overall, Gall led the Hoosiers in all but one race on the season.
The men's team had strong performances and consistent running throughout the year as well, thanks in large part to junior Sean Jefferson. The Delray Beach, Fla., native was the top runner in every race for the Hoosiers on the '04 campaign. Like Gall, Jefferson picked his pace up at the end of the season and became the team's most decorated runner this year. Jefferson finished eighth overall at the Big Ten Championship to earn second team All-Big Ten honors. He followed that performance with a second-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional to earn all region accolades. Jefferson closed the season with a 34th place finish at the NCAA Championship to earn All-America honors.
Even though Sean Jefferson was not in the top 25, he was the 24th American-born runner to cross the finish line. The first 25 overall runners and the first 25 American-born runners to cross the finish line earn All-America status. It marks the second time in his cross country career Sean has been named as an All-American (he earned All-America honors in 2003 with a 19th-place finish), becoming just the fourth IU cross country athlete in school history to earn All-America accolades at least twice in his career. Pat Mandera was the first to achieve the feat, winning the award in 1972 and 1973, while Jim Spivey (1978, 1979, 1980 and 1982) and Bob Kennedy (1988, 1989, 1990, 1992) also were multi-year All-Americans.
Both teams began the 2004 season hosting the Indiana Open on Sept. 3. Junior Billy Coale was IU's top finisher in 16:29. Twin brothers John and Sean Jefferson were next, each at 16:35. It marked John Jefferson's first competitive cross country meet in more than a year, as the junior sat out the 2003 campaign with a knee injury. Eric Redman, Tom Burns and Stephen Haas rounded out Indiana's top five.
Like John Jefferson, Gall also sat out the 2003 cross country season. Gall was the top Indiana finisher in the women's cross country opener, finishing the 5K course in 18:32. Nikki Peterson (19:51), Maura Ratcliff (20:09), Christina Barniak (20:23) and Allison Miller (20:27) rounded out the IU women's top five.
Following the season opener, the Hoosiers competed in the Cream and Crimson against Ball State on Sept. 10 in an unscored meet. Then it was on to West Lafayette, Ind., to compete at the Indiana Intercollegiates on Sept. 17.
Head Coach Judy Wilson's women's cross country team slipped by hosting Purdue to post back-to-back Indiana Intercollegiate titles for the initial time in the program's history. IU claimed the Large School Division of the 5K event held at the Varsity Cross Country Course in West Lafayette with a one-point triumph over the Lady Boilermakers after accumulating 45 points. Head Coach Robert Chapman's men's cross country team cruised to a 29-point triumph in the event with a 20-point tally in the Large School Division of the Indiana Intercollegiates 8K.
Overall, the Hoosier women placed three competitors in the top 10 as Gall out-ran Ball State's Jill Scully to the finish line with an eight-second victory to win in 17:40. Siefker followed closely behind with a third-place time of 17:56, while Whitezell came in sixth place. On the men's side, IU placed five Hoosiers in the top seven spots as Sean Jefferson ran a 25:39 to capture the individual crown. Senior Tom Burns clocked a 26:01 to claim third place, while junior Stephan Haas took fourth with a 26:08 effort.
The teams split in their next race on Oct. 1. The women traveled to Cary, N.C., to compete at the Great American Cross Country Festival, while the men ran at the Notre Dame Invite in South Bend, Ind.
The women had an eighth-place showing at the Festival, as Siefker finished with a time of 17:43.54 to lead the squad with a 15th-place finish. Sophomore Jessica Gall, who was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 25 following her first-place finish at the Indiana Intercollegiate, was the second IU runner to cross the finish line, finishing 27th with a time of 18:06.16. It was the only race on the season Gall would not lead the Hoosiers in.
Sean Jefferson placed seventh with a time of 23:50 to lead the men's cross country team to a seventh-place showing at the Notre Dame Invitational. Following Jefferson's lead was Burns who placed 34th with a time of 24:25.
The Hoosiers then began the stretch run in the final four events of the season, starting with the Pre NCAA's on Oct. 16 in Terre Haute, Ind. Both teams fared well, as the women finished eighth, while the men placed sixth.
Once again, it was Gall leading the women and Sean Jefferson pacing the men. Gall placed 15th overall with a time of 21:01.1. Siefker was again the second Hoosier to finish, coming in with a 21:18.6 to finish 27th overall.
John and Sean Jefferson both placed in the top 15 to lead the men's squad, as Sean finished fifth overall out of 256 individuals, with a time of 24:10.4 at the 8,000m event, while John was 15th overall in 24:27.7.
Both teams climbed the polls after the event, as the men defeated seven ranked teams including No. 4 Iona and No. 10 Butler, while the women defeated No. 16 Baylor, No. 18 Columbia, No. 23 Idaho and No. 25 UCLA, among others.
The next event was the Big Ten Championship held in Iowa City, Iowa. The men had a great meet, finishing runners-up to No. 1-ranked Wisconsin. The Jefferson brothers again performed well as they placed eighth and ninth, respectively, to lead the Hoosiers. With the results, the twin brothers earn All-Big Ten Honors for the second time in their careers. The Hoosiers recorded their first second-place showing since the 2000 season and it also marked the sixth consecutive year IU has finished in the top five at the Championship.
The women did not fare as well, placing fifth overall. However, Gall again stole the spotlight, finishing third overall to earn first team All-Big Ten honors. Gall was one of two IU runners to garner Big Ten honors. Whitezell placed 12th to nab a spot on the second team.
From there, the Hooosier squads traveled to Ypsilanti, Mich. for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. Both teams showed they belonged in the NCAA Championship, as the women placed placed fourth overall, while the men finished fifth.
Both teams had representatives on the all-region team, led by three from the women's side. Once again, it was Gall who paced the Hoosiers, finishing in seventh overall with a time of 20:16.2. Whitezell was the next Hoosier to finish, coming in at 17th place in 20:51, just ahead of Siefker who placed 20th in a time of 20:55.5. Gall, Whitezell and Siefker were named to the all-region team for their efforts.
With the help of Sean and John Jefferson's second place and fifth place finishes, respectively, the men's cross country team placed fifth overall at the Regional. Both runners earned a spot on the all-region team for their efforts, as IU was the only team in the regional to have two runners from the same team place in the top five.
With their performances at the Regional, both teams received one of 13 at-large bids on each side to the NCAA Championship. Both teams gave it their bests at the Championship in on Nov. 22, in what was a muddy, wet and a challenging venue at the LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course hosted by Indiana State University. The men finished 18th, while the women placed 30th.
Gall finished the 2004 campaign in style, becoming just the eighth IU runner to earn All-America honors, as she placed 18th overall in a time of 20:52.7 at the Championship.
"This was a great testament to Jessica perseverance and staying with it," Wilson said. "Jessica was hurt last season and didn't run at all. For her to perform this well is really exciting and I could not be happier."
Gall, a native of West Lafayette, Ind., got off to a fast start in the 6,000m event. She led the Hoosiers throughout the race, and was able to maintain a steady pace, despite the tough course conditions. In addition, Gall was the first Big Ten runner to complete the race.
"Jess was able to get out real fast, which is something I wanted the entire team to do," said Wilson. "I thought our second, third and fourth runners didn't get to where they needed to be. If that doesn't happen, then usually it won't be as exciting of a race."
The men were once again led by Sean Jefferson placed 34th overall with a time of 31:45.7 to earn All-America honors and lead the Indiana men's cross country team at the NCAA Championship.
"The strategy I had the team follow ended up not working for the conditions of the course," said Chapman. "I had them go out slower and try to move in the second half of the race, but the mud made that too hard.
"For the guys to finish 18th overall using that strategy was a great accomplishment. If I had instructed them to go out faster in the first half, they probably would have placed higher as a team."
Despite not earning the outcome both teams wanted at the NCAA Championships, Wilson and Chapman both have reasons to smile. Each team returns five of its six top runners in 2005.
With the success the men's and women's programs had in 2004, and considering both squads return the majority of their team for the 2005 season, the future remains bright for Indiana men's and women's cross country.
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