Could IUPUI Become the New IN Powerhouse for Cross Country?

9 new faces will dawn the crimson and old gold this fall as a member of the Jag Pack

When you think cross country colleges in Indiana, not very many come to mind. Indiana University, Purdue University and Notre Dame have had some great success these past few years. But does the school IUPUI ever come to mind? Not really. Athletics don't really come to mind when you think of IUPUI. At the 2018 NCAA Great Lakes Regional, the boys team took 19th place, with their tip finisher coming in 93rd overall. In comparison, Purdue and IU took 4th and 5th respectively with Notre Dame taking the runner up spot.

But this August a group of nine guys have the opportunity to begin turning this team into one that will compete side by side with the top dogs of the state and hopefully the nation. Interestingly enough these nine guys aren't just some random group that decided on IUPUI because it was close to home and wanted to keep running. All 9 of these guys have been top athletes in the state of Indiana for the past four years, either making the podium as a top 25 individual or as a top team for the most part.

·        Brady Jarosinski - Hamilton Southeastern (16:36)

·        Brennan Butche - Mississinewa (15:26)

·        Justin Amburgy - Noblesville (16:21)

·        Mitchell Gits - LaPorte (16:10)

·        Nate Kaiser - Tell City (15:30)

·        Alex Meyer - Fishers (15:52)

·        Eric Petersen - North Central (16:05)

·        Nick Perkins - Roncalli (15:45)

·        Mitchell Rans - Caston (15:30)

Coach Chuck Koeppen looks at this incoming group as having a similar pedigree to their recruiting class back in 2012 which included 4 of the top 10 from the state cross country meet the year prior. "The staff here at IUPUI could not be happier. We feel that the hard work spent recruiting these young men will pay tremendous dividends in the future."

History tends to repeat itself and it looks like it potentially only took 7 years for that to happen for the Jags. The class from 2012 included Mitch Hubner (2nd at XC state), Joey Zielinski (4th), Miguel Lozano (6th) and Sam Roudebush (7th). This year's class matches up pretty closely, with Brennan Butche leading the way with a 3rd place finish, Nick Perkins (10th), Nate Kaiser (15th), Mitchell Rans (16th) and Mitchell Gits (17th).

For the most part these soon to be freshman will have a very tough time making varsity in just their first year though, as the Jaguars already have 10 returning guys looking to keep their places up as the top dogs. Ben Savage, Jacob Stamm, Eric Hoffman, Alex Ratkovich, Jarit Perkins, Roman Jennings, Dustin Starnes, Brooks Long, Josh Everetts and Austin Ohm all return this fall with big plans of continuing to make this team better than it was the year before. Just last October the Jags took 3rd in the Horizon League Champs and then followed that up with a 19th place finish in the Great Lakes Regional.

The right balance of a well bonded team and positive attitudes will be what truly makes this team what it can be. Being the first one to commit, Brady Jarosinski knew that the brotherhood that was already there by the current team was something he wanted to be apart of and made his decision that much easier. "I wasn't sure what would come after me, but I knew what they already had established was a brotherhood I wanted to apart of." Team culture is a recurring theme when you look at the reasoning behind each one of these 9 guys committing to a school that many just write off.

Coaching also can play a role in how well a team does. When all-time high school greats are discussed near the very top of that list is Coach Koeppen. He led the Carmel Greyhounds to 11 cross country state titles and 8 runner-up finishes between 1976 and 2008 on the boys side. On the girls side he had a pretty similar experience with 11 state titles and 7 runner-up finishes between 1981 to 2008. High school cross and college cross are different, but the main components are very similar and having someone like Chuck Koeppen leading the way can be extremely important to turn into a winning team.

When fans of the sport or even the media begin looking at next seasons top returning teams, we all know IUPUI be nowhere in the mix of names mentioned, but a few years down the line IUPUI has the true talent currently there and coming in to be a name to make some rankings. "Everyone will be watching out for the Jag Pack pretty soon" Mitchell Rans said of the future of this team.

As best put by Coach Koeppen "Time will tell." We know how good these guys have been in high school, but what will they achieve at the collegiate level now?