Monday, September 22, 2014

Indiana Intercollegiate Cross Country Championships--Men's Championships

The Indiana Intercollegiate Men's Cross Country Championships were held on Friday, September 19, 2014. It was held at the Purdue University 8K Cross Country course on a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures in the low to mid-70's at race time. [For course and weather details see my September 20 blog on the women's race.] This recap focuses on the Big State Meet; the Little State Meet was held on the same course at the same time but that is not my focus.

Indiana, Indiana State, IUPUI, Purdue and Evansville had teams entered in the Men's Big State Championship. As usual there was a tight pack for the first mile with all of the main contenders, Indiana State's John Mascari, ranked 21st nationally by Flo-Track on September 2nd, Matt McClintock, Purdue's main man and also ranked nationally at 24th, and IU's Evan Esselink,

The pack approaches about 600 yards into the race, Mascari on left, McClintock in the middle.
Matt Schwartzer, and JR Crist, with IUPUI's dynamic duo of Tom Ohlman and Joey Zielinski in the mix. The pack as a whole spread out over the next mile or so but the front of the pack didn't change much. Mascari and McClintock were in the lead pack but so was IU's pack, a couple of
The pack, around 2.3 miles with IU's Owen Skeete in the lead, flanked by Mascari (left) and McClintock (right), with 3 Jaguars tucked in behind McClintock and the rest of the IU pack  bunched on the left trailing Mascari.

Purdue runners and IUPUI's duo joined by Peyton Reed hanging in there as well, a good omen for the Jaguars.

By the 4 mile mark, Mascari had made his move and established a gap over Boilermaker, Matt
Mascari (ISU) in the lead with Esselink (IU) and McClintock (Purdue) battling for second about 30 yards back.

McClintock, and the Hoosiers Evan Esselink, who were competing for second about 30 yards back.
IU's Esselink and Purdue's McClintock head to head at the 4 mile mark with a clear gap back to the next two (also IU)

After that it was mostly IU with a few Boilermakers and a few Jaguars mixed in.

Mascari pulled away over the final mile to win in a stirring 24:32.8, easily justifying the early attention from national rankings and planting the seed that maybe a top 10 finish in November at the
Johyn Mascari
John Mascari, considered a 'dark horse' for a top ten finish in NCAA's this year

LaVerne Gibson course in Terre Haute might not be out of reach.Clearly something about Terre Haute brings out the best in Mascari. Purdue's Matt McClintock was able to kick away to
Matthew McClintock
Matt McClintock, considered a likely top 25 finisher in NCAA's this year

finish second in 24: 45.2 for a  5 second gap over IU's Evan Esselink who took third by 15 seconds.
Evan Esselink
Evan Esselink, one of the key runners counted on to keep IU in the top ten teams at NCAA's this year

Indiana [29]. IU showed that they may not have a single dominant runner but they have a dominating pack, at least in Indiana. The Hoosiers took 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th to wrap up first place at the Big State meet. At least in this race, Esselink showed a little more than the rest of the pack. But Matt Schwartzer (25:05.0),
Matt Schwartzer
Matt Schwartzer, IU, 4th place in Indiana Intercollegiates

Jason Crist (25:11.0) and Kieran Reilly (25:18.9) ran as a tight pack, finishing within 14 seconds of one another. A 16 second gap that opened between the 4th and 5th runners in for IU did allow a second Sycamore and 3 Jaguars to insert themselves. That gap is likely a little worrisome for the Hoosiers who have high hopes for not only a strong Great Lakes regional showing but for making noise at the national meet as well. But they clearly have time and enough depth to address the worry.

IUPUI [56]. The Jaguars showed they have made great strides under Coach Chuck Koeppen's leadership. Their lead trio of Joey Zielinski, Tom Ohlman and Peyton Reed hung tough the whole race, finishing
Joey Zielinski
Joey Zielinski, IUPUI, 8th place in Indiana Intercollegiates

within ten seconds of one another in 8th, 9th, and 10th place with times ranging from 25:23.9 to
Tom Ohlman
Tom Ohlman, IUPUI, 9th place in Indiana Intercollegiates

25:33.8. And their next two were not that far back as Miguel Lozano and Abiel Mogos worked off
Peyton Reed
Peyton Reed, IUPUI 10th place in Indiana Intercollegiates

each other to finish in 14th and 15th in 25:51.1 and 25:52.9. That gave the Jags all they needed to walk away with second place, not a surprise to them but certainly a surprise to some. But if this race is an indicator they are a bit too dependent on their top five as there was 45 seconds between 5th and 6th. No doubt Coach Koeppen and his team will try to address that problem over the next couple of
Chuck Koeppen
Coach Chuck Koeppen, IUPUI Jaguars Cross Country

weeks. We'll see at Notre Dame if they are able to tighten up a bit more. Although guys like to brag about their '6-packs', with Cross Country you really want a 7-pack or an 8-pack of running tight.

Indiana State [64]. Although this is no longer just the Mascari show there were enough gaps that the Sycamores could only manage a third place in the team standings. Taylor Head ran a fine race
Taylor Head
Taylor Head, ISU 7th place in Indiana Intercollegiates

coming in 7th overall in 25:20.8 but the thirty second gap back to their third runner in left just enough space for the lead trio of Jaguars to insert themselves. And a 16 second gap back to the fifth runner let the Jags 4th and 5th runners in to deny the Sycamores the 2nd place trophy they had hoped for.

Purdue [73]. Considering the race was on their home course, this must be a disappointment for the Boilermakers. Purdue started the season ranked 8th in the region, ahead of both IUPUI and Indiana State. But at least on this date the gap between McClintock and the rest of the team, at over a minute, was just too great. Jeff Kent, the Boilers' new Assistant Track and Field Coach for Cross Country,
Jeff Kent
Jeff Kent, Purdue University Cross Country Coach

will have plenty to work on over the next couple of weeks.

On October 3rd, IUPUI, Indiana State and Purdue, from this field, will take on Notre Dame, among others, at the Notre Dame Invitational. Butler will also compete in that meet after this next week's outing at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota on September 27. IU will, instead, be on the west coast for the Washington Invitational on October 4th.

Thsi invitational could be an eye opener. Notre dame will, of course, hope to dominate on their home course. But Butler is currently ranked 4th in the region, three spots ahead of Notre Dame. IUPUI will be eager to show that their showing at the Indiana Intercollegiates is no fluke and that the Dawgs and the Irish need to worry about jaguars nipping at their heels. And, of course, the Sycamores and Boilermakers will want to show that this weekend was an aberration and that they are actually among the top 4 teams in Indiana.

According to the second week poll of NCAA Division 1 Cross Country and Track Coaches, IU is 1st in the Great Lakes Region, Butler is 4th, and Notre Dame is 7th, followed by IUPUI 9th, Indiana State 11th, and Purdue 12th.

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