Hoosiers Begin 2009 Season With Indiana Open
Jan. 8, 2009
The Indiana Open is the first of four consecutive home meets to open the 2009 indoor season for the Hoosiers. The meet will be hosted at Gladstein Fielhouse on Jan. 10, 2009, with the first event scheduled for competition at 11 a.m. ET.
The meet will include 13 colleges and universities as well as five club teams. Also competing in Gladstein Fielhouse this weekend will be Beijing Olympian Mary Wineberg, who will run in the 60m and 400m dashes.
Ron Helmer enters his second season as the Indiana Director and Head Coach of Men's and Women's Track and Field and Cross Country after being named to the position on May 25, 2007.
In his first season at the helm of the Hoosiers, Helmer guided the men's and women's track and field teams to improvements during the indoor and outdoor seasons. The indoor portion of the year was highlighted by a Big Ten individual championship for Audrey Smoot in the 600-meter run and a Big Ten runner-up honor from Kyle Jenkins in the triple jump. The indoor season culminated in a trio of Hoosiers representing the women's team at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Wendi Robinson in the 5,000-meters, Molly Beckwith in the 800-meters and Stephanie Chin in the pole vault.
Former West Virginia head women's track and field coach Jeff Huntoon enters his second year as the associate head coach for the Indiana track and field program. Huntoon works with IU's men's and women's sprints, hurdles and jumps. Huntoon, the 2003 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year, came to Bloomington after 18 years with the Mountaineers, which included a top-20 national finish during the 2005 season. He served as the assistant head men's and women's coach for 10 years prior to being promoted to the head men's and women's coach in 1999.
THE SPRINTERS AND HURDLERS
The Hoosiers enter the 2009 season with an infusion of youth at the sprints and hurdles. While Indiana has national qualifier Molly Beckwith and Big Ten Champion Audrey Smoot returning, the team will look to replace top sprinters in 2008 Courtney Johnson and Kyndal Carr. Returning are several veterans in the longer sprints and hurdle events. Smoot and Beckwith provide the Hoosiers with a depth of talent at 400 and 600 meters. Kayla Smith returns after a solid offseason of work in the hurdles as well.
"Audrey was the Big Ten Champion last year," said associate head coach Jeff Huntoon. "She has to make sure that she maintains the attitude that she had that day and parlay it into an everyday thing. She is learning how to do that, and we are excited with what we are seeing this fall. If she can have that confidence at every meet, the sky is the limit for her. It would be foolish to set a ceiling for her, because she could break through whatever we would talk about.
"Kayla Smith had a phenomenal summertime. You talk about taking it to another level, she is a kid that has shown she is ready for that. She will be a huge part of the relays, and will contribute at the 400, 500, 600m spots, and then we look forward to seeing her in the intermediate hurdles during outdoor where she hopes to be an NCAA regional qualifer and hopefully a finalist."
"What we're excited about is the fact that we were able to add three or four good solid athletes," said director and head coach Ron Helmer. "Ann-Marie Clarke probably is the most accomplished of the group. She is someone with a lot of ability in a variety of events, as a 400m hurdler, 400m runner, sprint hurdler, even possibly a multi event athlete. We feel that with work she could be one of the best out there."
Ashley Rhoades and Jackie Coleman return as the leaders in the jumps for the Hoosiers. Rhoades and Coleman were both regional qualifiers in 2008, and both jumpers matched the regional standard for their qualification. In 2009, the two will look to improve their bests and better the regional standard.
"Jackie Coleman has a few training partners this year, which will allow her to move to a different level with her competitiveness on a daily basis," Huntoon said. "She has to be more competitive day in and day out because of the young kids that we've got. She has learned the value of getting fit first, and she will parlay that into a better long jump and triple jump on a more consistent level. I fully expect her to be a Big Ten placer this year during indoor and outdoor in both events.
"Ashley Rhoades was a pleasant surprise last year after coming off of her second ankle surgery. She didn't do a lot in the fall other than rehab, and the training staff did an outstanding job with her to get her fit so that she could come out and do some things. We erred on the side of caution with her last year in training. She had some wonderful successes with medaling at Big Tens and qualifying for the regional. Her sights are on the National Championships, not just on the regionals. She knows what that is like, and she needs to go there and compete against the four or five best and hopefully come out of this region."
Freshmen Jaclyn Cottrell and Gretchen Zimmerman enter the program as two very skilled jumpers. Cottrell comes to IU from Leo, Ind. as an all-state high jumper. Zimmerman is the daughter of IU legend Kerry Zimmerman, whose name is throughout the jumps section of the IU record books. The younger Zimmerman will compete in multi events but specializes in the high and long jumps.
"Both of our freshmen jumpers are works in progress," said Helmer. "Jaclyn Cottrell has had the most success, but Gretchen Zimmerman is very good as well. Both will need to work hard, so time will tell. I believe the coaching is here, and they are working very hard. I think both of them will find a way to help us in the future."
A promising crop of distance runners line the IU roster this year, with the key returners being national qualifier Wendi Robinson, Caitlin Lauer and Sarah Pease. Robinson provisionally qualified in the 5,000m, 3,000m, and in the Distance Medley Relay during the 2008 indoor season.
"We are going to rely greatly on Wendi's leadership and its not just because she's experienced," Helmer said. "She really was the first one to start to improve significantly under our system. Plus Wendi just has a real desire to be a part of a team. She's very much looking forward to helping the incoming freshmen transition and understand what it is thats going to be expected from them."
With seven true freshmen specializing in distance and middle distance, Indiana has a bright future in the longer races. Chelsea Blanchard could contribute right away.
"Every single one of our newcomers here will need time to develop," said Helmer. "The cool thing is they will develop. This is a very talented group. Chelsea Blanchard is probably the most accomplished of the group and has been our best freshman in cross country, but even there, there is a lot of room for improvement. The encouraging thing is they are embracing the workload. Every time I've had a group like this, there have been many success stories that have come out of it."
The Hoosiers return two 2008 regional qualifiers in Faith Sherrill and Tiffany Howard. Sherrill improved her marks by nearly a full meter in both the shot put and weight throw and qualified for the regional in the shot and the discus.
"Tiffany, Faith and Kristen Ness all scored in the Big Ten for the first time this past year," Helmer said. "All of them are in a complete, thorough, high-intensity training program for the first time. We've opened up the door for some really good things to happen, and they've embraced the challenge, they're positive about it, and time will tell."
"We have a really solid group of young ladies back," Jones said. " They are coming in and feeling that they belong in the situation. They train to the point here they deserve to place and place high. I've gotten through to them that the mindset that once you step into that circle your just as good as anybody else who is going to step in before you or after you, and they need to deal with what you do. Not you deal with what they do.
"I've really got them focused on themselves. If somebody goes out and has a good throw, awesome. Now, our mindset is, `It's my turn now, you had a good throw, but I'm going to have one just as good or even better.' That's the confidence or swagger I was looking for. You don't want to be over-confident, but you defiantly want to go in there knowing you're ready to go."
Perhaps the most successful returnees on the 2009 team are junior Vera Neuenswander and sophomore Stephanie Chin. Neuenswander was the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and Chin was a national qualifier in both the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2008. The two returnees are the only female pole vaulters in IU lore to clear 2.00 meters, and both have P.R.s in excess of 2.10m.
"This was a situation where we had a really good athlete in place and another came along and is competing at about the same level, and now they are both getting comfortable with working with each other, pushing each other and competing against each other," Helmer said. "The maturity that Stephanie and Vera have is going to allow that to be a very positive process."
Junior Laura Williams will return to action in 2009 after redshirting in the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2008. Andrea Newcom is a very athletic freshman from Jeffersonville that cleared 11'6 as a senior in high school.
"Laura Williams got a lot of work done this offseason," said assistant coach Jake Wiseman. "I can tell that she is in a lot better shape. She wants to compete with Vera and Stephanie, and she definitely put in the work this summer to put herself in position to do that.
"I had a lot of coaches call me to tell me about Andrea Newcom as an opportunity to bring in a girl with a lot of potential. She has some good tools to come in and hopefully help us out."
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