Newsome's Bailey Hertenstein wins her third consecutive FLRunners.com Invitational Race Of Champions title.
Hertenstein unofficially looked at Stanford and Cal Berkeley before narrowing her choices down to Notre Dame, Duke, and Indiana. In the end, it was the Hoosiers that were a perfect fit.
"I already knew I had family that lived in the state," she said. "I was born in Indiana so I was familiar with the area. When I got on campus I just fell in love with it. The weather was perfect, the team immediately made me feel like a part of their family, and the coach has been coaching there for a while."
Hertenstein, who transferred to Newsome High School for her senior year, visited the Bloomington campus the weekend that Hurricane Irma was wreaking havoc on Florida. She said tasting life as a future Hoosier was an amazing experience, even if it lasted a little longer than most visits do.
"When I was visiting Indiana, I was initially there with a couple other recruits," Hertenstein shared. "We were hosted by a team member, toured the campus, went to the best restaurants in town, and I even was able to go to classes with some of them. I really had the full experience since I was there for six days because Hurricane Irma prevented me from going home."
A look at coach Ron Helmer's IU squad shows 17 girls, only four of whom hail from somewhere other than the Midwest. That doesn't bother Hertenstein, though. She's excited to join a Hoosier's program that is currently ranked 14th in the latest USTFCCCA rankings and to get a feel for a new environment and experience.
"My parents encouraged me to go out of state and experience something new," she explained. "While I've spent most of my life in Florida, I do love cold weather. It's not something I get often and I'm prepared to try a change. Coach Helmer is an experienced coach and spoke highly of his athletes and goals for the team as well as my placement on the team with proper training."
Hertenstein's accolades in the Florida are outstanding. She has won 19 meets in a row in the Sunshine State and 22 of 23. The last time she lost a race she completed was the 2014 4A cross country finals as a freshman, where she finished 15th.
The speedster won the prestigious FLRunners.com Race Of Champions three years in a row, putting in her elite company with the likes of Ashley Brasovan as the only other one to accomplish that feat while Olympian Jenny Simpson won the event twice. She has run under 18 minutes an incredible seven times including a personal best of 17:32.14 from the 2016 FLRunners.com Race of Champions that ranks 19th all-time.
Her track speed is evident as well. In the 3200m she was third as a sophomore and state champion as a junior. She is the two-time defending state champion at 1600m including an epic finish in 2016, where she was tripped up, and came from the back for a dramatic win. At 800m, she is a three-time state qualifier placing fourth, second, and third as a junior.
Now that the process is done, Hertenstein is relieved. She's ready to finish her senior season, graduate, and move onto the next level.
"I'm beyond excited and eager," she said. "I can now focus on being the best me in both academics and athletics knowing that I already have my future awaiting me when it's all done."
One month from now she will have her eyes focused on another prize: her third-straight 4A cross country finals championship, and the ultimate goal of return trip to San Diego for Foot Locker Nationals, but she knows it won't come easy.
"I can't always get ahead of myself and assume I'll get another state title," she said. "I have to work for it and whatever happens in the end will be what I deserve. After that, you will definitely see me at Foot Locker South and hoping to get back to Foot Locker Nationals!"
By The Numbers: (Personal Records)
- 800m - 2:10.66
- 1600m - 4:54.34
- 1 Mile - 4:59.37
- 3200m - 10:30.89
- 3 Mile (xc) - 17:30.00
- 5K (xc) - 17:32.14