October 14, 2002
Bloomington, IN - The No. 30 Indiana women's cross country team enters the most crucial part of this season Saturday when it heads to the Pre-NCAA Meet at the Vern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute. This starts a four-week stretch that includes the Nov. 3 Big Ten Championship and the Nov. 16 NCAA Regional Meet, both in Wesy Lafayette, Ind.
Given that the 2002 NCAA Championship will also be held in Terre Haute on Nov. 25, Saturday's meet is an excellent opportunity for teams to "get acquainted" with the lay of the land.
"The initial purpose of the Pre-NCAA meet was for teams to get a chance to run on the NCAA course," IU coach Judy Wilson said. "But in the last few years, with the system that allows for 13 teams to get at-large bids to the championship, we have to go to Pre-NCAA's to get a gauge of the national competition. Our region is tough this year, with seven teams ranked among the top 30 in the country."
Indiana has become quite familiar with its regional foes, having faced may of them at the Sept. 28 Roy Griak Invitational and the Oct. 5 Notre Dame Invitational. The Hoosiers finished fifth in each meet, but more importantly, Wilson felt that the meets offered a good barometer of her team's progress.
"I felt that with each of the last two meets, we ran relatively mediocre races, especially among our top five," Wilson said. "With the Griak, I felt that no one in the top 5 'went to the well', and with Notre Dame, well, we just weren't that focused. So the good thing right now is that we have placed in the top five in those meets with less than stellar races. This means that there is so much more we can accomplish."
Sophomore Mindy Peterson and juniors Audrey Giesler and Becky Obrecht have been among Indiana's top three performers throughout the season. According to Wilson, one of the keys for her team is how some of her younger runners - freshmen Jessica Gall, Lindsay Hattendorf, Kelly Siefker and Larra Overton and sophomores Julie Shields, Allison Miller and Jaime Higginbotham - develop.
" Jessica has been running workouts with Mindy, Audrey , and Becky. Physically, there is no difference between the four of them, but this is a whole new situation for Jess, and she is learning. Once Jess commits to "race" with them, she will find herself at an entirely new level.
"Lindsay came into the pre-season holding her own with our top four. She experienced a minor setback with her hip, but she is now coming around again and I think she will be where we need her for the big meets. Kelly, Larra, and Allison Miller have all had these moments where they just look really good and seem to be handling things pretty well. The keys for them, as well as Julie and Jaime, is to be as close to our fifth runner as possible."