CHAMPAIGN -- Greencastle grad Andy Weatherford competed in the Big 10 indoor track championships for the Indiana Hoosiers this past weekend at the University of Illinois in Champaign. The standout senior competed in two events for the Hoosiers, the mile and the Distance Medley Relay (DMR).
The meet lasted both Saturday and Sunday, with Saturday being a day mostly of preliminary events, with exception to the 3000m and the DMR, and Sunday being the day of finals.
Weatherford's first event came on Saturday as he raced in heat two of three, in the mile pre-lims. In order to make the finals, a runner either had to finish in the top two of his heat, or finish with one of the top nine fastest times. With hopes of getting into the finals, Andy had a strategy going in.
" The plan was to have (teammate) Ben (Hubers) go out in 61's just like he did. We knew out of all the heats ours was probably the most competitive. You've got Ben who's a 4:00 guy, a Minnesota kid who's a 3:56 to 3:57 guy, so we knew it was going to go if we just made it go up front. And from there, the plan was just to hold on and race late, which we were able to do," Weatherford said.
Things were going according to plan from the start. Andy was sitting comfortably in second place behind his teammate through the first 800 meters. Everyone in the field seemed pretty content with where they were and nobody was making any moves. However, on the sixth lap things picked up, and runners started scrambling to make moves and further their chances of qualifying for the finals. Andy fell back to fourth place as all of the pushing and shoving occurred amongst the conglomerated pack, but he would not panic.
With only 40 meters left, Andy passed his teammate, Ben Hubers, to finish in third place in a time of 4:06.32.
Not earning an automatic bid to the finals, he had to await the results of the third and final heat to see if he would qualify. Asked if he was nervous at all watching the final heat, Weatherford couldn't deny it.
"Yeah a little bit. We had a plan for that too. We had Andy Bayer who's a fantastic miler, a 3:57. He was going to take it out because people know who he is, and he was just supposed to get to the lead and slow it down. He went out to the lead and slowed it down, and people just went right past him. So I was a little nervous, but you know, then they went through in 2:05, and you know, they're not going to, you know, you kind of knew that the deal was sealed at that point," he said.
Weatherford ended up in the eighth spot overall, and earned himself a trip to the finals.
A couple of hours later came his second event of the day, the DMR.
Unlike the mile, the DMR had no preliminary round. The DMR consists of four members per team each running a different event, then passing a baton off to their teammate. The four events are: 1200, followed by a 400, then an 800, and finally, the mile. Weatherford ran the mile, and anchored his team. After the first three events, the Hoosiers were in second place.
With the final event coming, Andy took the baton from his teammate, and found himself with a 30-meter gap behind the first place runner. He was looking strong throughout the entire race, but with two laps to go, he dropped back to fourth.
With a little over a lap to go, Weatherford fought back and got into second place. The crowd was erupting as the battle for second was fierce among four contenders. Giving everything he had, with about 100 meters left, Weatherford was struggling with a grimace on his face. He ended up running out of gas and falling back finishing in sixth place overall in a time of 9:57.73.
Weatherford explained what happened in the final lap.
"What happened was a rookie mistake," he said. "I went too early, I lost track of the laps, and there was no lap counter and nobody there telling me how many to go and I couldn't remember. If I had heard the gun yet or not because it's just so loud in here, you know its so small everybody was screaming and it was the last event of the day. Just went too early really, so rookie mistake I guess. It ended up costing me."
Despite the fact that the DMR was a little disappointing, Weatherford seemed pretty happy about the mile.
Once the day had ended, Weatherford noted he was looking forward to the next day's events.
"I'm feeling pretty good about it," he said. "I mean 4:06 today felt really easy. I'm not quite sure what I split in the DMR, but we're just going to move on and forget about that one. But you know, kind of the way I'm looking at it is; I should've had second today in the DMR, and I let it slip back to sixth. So the way I look at it is; I owe the team five points. So that's what I'm going for tomorrow, is five points."
Weatherford ended up finishing in eighth place in the finals of the mile in a time of 4:09.81, which earned his team one point.
Even though he was disappointed with the outcome of the race, it is still quite an accomplishment, to make the finals in arguably one of the toughest conferences in the country.
And the indoor season is merely a preparation for the outdoor season.
"Indoors we're definitely getting serious, because we're a track focused team, but definitely the focus is outdoors. Indoors, as the coach (Ron Helmer) likes to put it, is this is the team sport right here, and then when we go out to outdoors is when he really let's everybody go and it's about getting national championships, and getting people qualified for USA's and Juniors and so forth", Weatherford said.
The first outdoor race for the Hoosiers will be March 25 at the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, California.
Big 10 indoor track
Final Results: Mile
1. Blankenship, Ben JR Minnesota 4:01.14 10pts.
2. Bayer, Andrew SO Indiana 4:01.96 8 pts.
3. Thode, Jeff SO Iowa 4:02.00 6pts.
4. Leslie, Cory JR Ohio State 4:03.59 5pts.
5. Rucks, Luke SR Wisconsin 4:07.82 4pts.
6. Hatz, Alexander FR Wisconsin 4:08.02 3pts.
7. Borchers, Samuel SR Penn State 4:09.64 2pts.
8. Weatherford, Andy SR Indiana 4:09.81 1pts.
9. Hubers, Ben JR Indiana 4:10.46