Aug. 21, 2007
Throughout the 2007 cross country season, IUHOOSIERS.com will sit down and get to know the Indiana cross country staff and student-athletes. IU Director and Head Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Ron Helmer opens the series with a questions and answer session.
What are you most looking forward to this season?
When you first start up, you're always looking forward to getting everyone back on campus and seeing where they are with their training and what's on their mind. This is not only just starting the cross country season, it's starting the cycle for the whole year with indoor and outdoor track. Starting the cycle up again is always fun because the table is clear and we get a fresh start, which is always fun.
What attracted you to coming to Indiana?
I knew the IU history and tradition. In the late `80s and early `90s during the Bob Kennedy years, Indiana was one of the best programs and jobs in the nation. From a family standpoint, the lifestyle and the pace of life here was a lot different than what I had grown accustomed to in Washington, D.C. The chance to recapture some commuting time, travel time, because of the number of home meets you have, was a great opportunity. The challenge is also exciting and the potential that Indiana has to be a big-time track and field program - that's cool. I'm excited about it and the alumni are getting excited about it, too.
How has the Bloomington running community responded to you and the staff?
They have been warm, welcoming and receptive to our staff and are very excited about where IU track and field is headed.
What is something most fans don't know about you?
Everyone assumes that I listen to country music, which I do, but I also like Broadway musicals and just about everything in between. My iPod is evidence of that.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
After coaching at the high school level for 16 years and at the collegiate level for 21 years, I get up in the morning and can't wait to go to work and get started every day and the cool thing about it is at the end of the day, I can't wait to go home. I love what I do so much, but I also love being with my family. The fact that I still have those feelings after all this time, to me, that's a great accomplishment.
Do you see any differences between coaching in the BIG EAST and in the Big Ten?
The Big Ten is a far more homogenous group of schools. There are a lot of similarities from school to school. It's an established conference. Across the board, it is a football conference, so there is so much tradition and a very strong identity that the Big Ten has. The BIG EAST has some great academic schools and is a great conference, but some were great football schools, some were basketball schools and some were great at academics. It was a very of random grouping of schools. There wasn't too much in common with a lot of instances. We had a great pride in what we did in track and cross country in the BIG EAST, but we had reason to never quite know what you're going to be up against in the next year, which can be very challenging.
What can Hoosier fans expect out of both cross country teams this season?
As the year goes on, they will see our student-athletes get better and be more prepared for each meet, and be competitive at the conference level.
How important is it to your staff and the Indiana cross country program to host the NCAA Great Lakes Regional this season?
It's very important. When you have the opportunity to hold a meet at that level, it tells people that you have a facility that is capable of doing it and that you have made a commitment to that sport. We are on the road most of the time and this gives us another opportunity for our student-athletes' families and friends to come out and support them.
What are your expectations in the first week of practice?
Just get to know people. We just need to continue to get our mileage in, and I can assess where everyone is at and just get to know more about each student-athlete.
Which returning athletes are you expecting to take the leadership role this season?
On the women's side, Wendi Robinson is extremely fit and is willing to be the leader on the course. Kristin Whitezell has also been in to talk about team things and trying to figure out what we need to do in different areas. On the men's side, Jordan Kyle is also extremely fit right now and is willing to be the leader. There are several other guys that have the potential to step up and join Jordan as well.