2008 Indiana Women's Cross Country Season Preview
Aug. 21, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Second-year head coach Ron Helmer returns a group to the 2008 Indiana women's cross country team that includes five upperclassmen and three sophomores. Among those eight student-athletes, redshirt-junior Wendi Robinson (Danville, Ind./Danville) stands out after a successful indoor season that resulted in a trip to the NCAA Championships. After redshirting the 2007 cross country and 2008 outdoor seasons, Robinson has returned as the clear leader for the Hoosiers.
"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. Every great cross country team needs a big-time solid No. 1 who can go up and take a low number so you only have to add four, and she provides that for us. 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 that's going to be expected from them. I really appreciate that attitude. She really just wants to help us be an outstanding team."
Joining Robinson in IU's group of seven will be redshirt-sophomore Sarah Pease (Elizabeth, Ind./South Central). In Robinson's absence last season, Pease stepped up in her first year of competition and paced the Hoosiers in every race.
"Sarah is a unique individual," Helmer said. "You have to have a Sarah on your team. She didn't have a lot of high school success, but she had just a huge amount of desire and has showed that she has the ability to train and hold up to some significant training. That is something that she has to do in order to take her talent and make it work at this level. Her attitude is great; her enthusiasm is great. Sarah will have to adapt and adjust to a different level of expectation, but I think she's wanting that as well."
Another veteran who has made strides through the track and field season is senior Kristina Trcka (Goshen, Ind./Goshen). She stepped up late in the cross country season with a role in the Hoosiers' top-five and carried that through the outdoor season where she recorded significant personal-bests in the 10,000-meters.
"Kristina probably impressed me as much as anyone we had," Helmer said. "She struggled early in the middle, but about mid-year last year she made a commitment to what we asked her to and as a result, she just got better and better. By the end of track season, she was improving with PR's at a number of levels. Kristina has just continued to train with a great attitude and I think she'll find a way to help us this year. Whenever you have that situation, you take great pride in what she is willing do, which helps the coaching staff because she's willing to set that type of standard and make a contribution."
Helmer also welcomes back redshirt-junior Caity Lauer (South Bend, Ind./John Adams). Lauer recorded a solid track season, clocking the ninth-fastest mile time in IU history (4:50.33) at the Indiana Relays in February.
"We really needed Caity in her first year of cross country last season," Helmer said. "She helped us by running in the top-five consistently. She made her jumps foward. Caity got down to a 4:50 mile during the track season. We need her to use that kind of a track time and her training abilities this season."
Also returning to the roster from last season are redshirt-junior Molly Beckwith (Worthington, Ohio/Thomas Worthington), redshirt-sophomores Rachel Ehret (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) and Jenny Kulow (Nashville, Ind./Brown County) and sophomore Natalie Goolik (Highland, Ind./Highland).
Helmer's group of freshmen include three runners from the state of Indiana, and three from Texas, Virginia and Illinois, respectively.
"The freshmen class is a class that is going to have the responsibility of making us better and put us in a position to go out and get a recruit or two that's a real difference maker and bring them on to a good, solid team," Helmer said. "We chose them as much for about who they are and what they are about, as we did on the kind of times that they had run. There is some very good talent there."
Leading IU's freshmen class is Chelsea Blanchard (Ft. Wayne, Ind./Carroll). Blanchard was a three-time all-stater in cross country and in the 3,200-meters. She holds the school records in the 4K (14:14), 5K (18:14), 1,600-meters (4:58) and in the 3,200-meters (10:49).
"Chelsea is probably the most accomplished high school runner in the group," said Helmer. "She was second at the Indiana state meet in the 1,600 and second in the 3,200 a year ago, and has run good times. She comes out of a program where she's prepared to take the next step to collegiate training. Up to this point, she's enjoying the challenge of preparing for the transition into cross country."
Kaylan Comer (Stafford, Va./Colonial Forge) was a four-year all-state honoree in cross country, placing among the top 10 at the state championships each year. She holds school records in the 4x800-meter relay (9:22.40), 1,600-meters (5:05.26), 3,200-meters (11:05.74) and in the 5K (18:15.00).
"Kaylan was a top-10 finisher at the Virginia state meet in all four years of high school," Helmer said. "Her preparation for college has been complete and the transition to the next level is something that she's ready for. Both Kaylan and Chelsea are strong academically, which will continue to keep that proud tradition alive."
Also joining the Hoosier squad is Helene Delone (Houston, Texas/Memorial), Kelsey Duerksen (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer), Breanne Ehrman (Westfield, Ind./Westfield), Caitlin Engel (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville), Jordan Gray (Berkeley Heights, N.J./Livingston) and Erin Walgamuth (Downers Grove, Ill./North).
"The next group all have that ability but could take longer to get ready," Helmer added. "Brianne is pretty good on the track and in cross country. In time with her desire and ability, will help her in this environment. Kelsey was a runner-up at the Michigan state meet in the 1,600 as a junior but was injured this past outdoor season. Helene Delone was 12th in the Texas state meet in cross country. In time she will develop and can help us."
THE 2008 SCHEDULE
Following the Hoosiers' first two weekends at home, IU will hit the road for the remainder of the season beginning with the historic Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree on Saturday, Oct. 4, in Stillwater. IU will then compete in the Pre-Nationals meet on Saturday, Oct. 18 in Terre Haute, Ind., before traveling to Ann Arbor on Sunday, Nov. 2 for the 2008 Big Ten Championships, hosted by the University of Michigan.
"We have a schedule that will give our student-athletes an opportunity to experience both the tradition and the diversity that make up collegiate cross country," Helmer said. "Our home meets are run on one of the finest cross country courses in the country; the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree is one of the oldest invitationals in the country. These meets, along with the Pre-Nationals should prepare us to have an outstanding conclusion to our season at the Big Ten and NCAA championships."
Competition in the month of November continues with the Great Lakes Region Championships, hosted by Purdue, on Saturday, Nov. 15 in West Lafayette, Ind. The season concludes in Terre Haute at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday, Nov. 24.
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