I think we're sitting in the similar boat that we were in last year. The Big Ten Championship is coming up and we're going into it with the expectation and the hope of winning the Big Ten Championship, as we try to do every year. That's one of the early season expectations with this team and the program. As far as the team and the chemistry and the training and everything has moved along nicely and we would hopefully be able to go into the Championship part of the season, which is really the next three weeks, with the expectation of hopefully doing very well.
Jerry, now looking for your fifth straight Big Ten title, what Big Ten teams in this field are really the tough ones that you guys have to look out for?
This year, even more so than last year and even past years, I think the Big Ten has gotten a lot deeper. It's definitely probably the best field we've seen in recent years. We have Michigan ranked sixth in the country. We're currently ranked second and Michigan sixth, Ohio State seventh, and I think Indiana is maybe 15th or so. So you're talking about four schools all in one conference all ranked top 15 in the country, with three of them being in the top seven. So it's probably, on paper, the best cross country conference in the country. It's going to be a tough meet and nothing comes easy in the Big Ten Championships. I would expect Michigan and Ohio State and Indiana to run very well. So that will probably be the major teams competition-wise.
You've been very successful your five years here and you guys haven't finished lower than sixth in the NCAA. I know you have the Big Tens this week, but at what point do you start thinking also beyond this week, at a national championship you guys have been so close?
We definitely think like that from the get-go. The goals for the seasons were…and we never want to look past the Big Ten meet because that's an important meet and we know that's really the stepping stone to getting things going in the championship part of the season…but the postseason, the NCAA meet really, that's always our main focus, and we want to make sure we're at our best that week. We've kind of set ourselves up year in and year out that if I were to tell you what our goals were, we want to be the Big Ten champions and we want to try and be a trophy team at the national meet. The more times I think you do that, the better chance you have of winning it. It's no different than any other sport, if you can get yourself in the top four in the country year in and year out, one of these times you're going to win it. Something is bound to go right for us one of these times. Not that it hasn't, but you know, Stanford.
With the success that you mentioned that you've had and the lofty goals that you have, with each passing year does it become easier to deal with because you've been there and done most of that before or is there more pressure because of the high goals now?
You could say it's more pressure but I think that's what these guys came here for, that's what they want to be a part of. They want to be a part of something that has a chance to be one of the best or if not the best program in the country. And they've worked really hard for that and I think we'd be really selling the kids short on the team if we underachieved and our goals were anything less than that. So pressure, maybe but like I said that the type of kids that are interested in coming here, they know that going into it. They know that we're a team that's always watched and basically from the start wherever you're ranked, you're either going to stay the same or you might be able to improve a little bit and this year we've been ranked second all year and there's only one place you can go to improve upon that. So it would appear that the only place you could go is underachieve from that but they're really into that, that's what they're here for. They want that kind of pressure on them and they usually come through in those situations.
Jerry, are you at the point in the season where you know who your top guys are, who you're going to run in the Big Ten, who you're going to as the rest of the season bares out or are you still trying to figure out who is going to fit in which spot?
I always have a rough idea at this point in the season but it's never perfect yet. A lot of answers will come after the Big Ten meet I think for us and certainly through the Regionals. We'll know after Big Tens, I would think. Like I said, I have a pretty good idea but we'll get our final test this weekend I think.