MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State cross country team opens its 2011 campaign Saturday, when it travels to Oxford, Ohio, for the Miami Invitational hosted by Miami University. The 5K race, which is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., winds through the scenic Western College on Miami's campus.
"This is a year of transition for our program on a lot of different levels," said Ball State head coach Randy Heisler. "Starting with the fact we are hosting a home meet, as well as the Mid-American Conference Championships, is really exciting for our program."
Transition also comes in the form of two-time NCAA cross country qualifier Ali Bishel moving from student-athlete to assistant coach. Last season, Bishel led the Cardinals in all six races she competed, including a 19th-place effort at the MAC Championships.
"Ali worked with our distance runners during the outdoor track season last spring and our girls responded immediately," said Heisler. "Having someone with her knowledge of the program, and her success in competition, is a huge benefit to our team."
Overall, the Cardinals return six letterwinners from last season's squad, led by senior Madeline Goheen who was one of just two Cardinals to compete in all seven meets last season. She is BSU's top returner from the 2010 MAC Championships and the 2010 NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
BSU's other returning scorers from last season's league meet are juniors MaryKate Mellen and Christine Talhelm. Junior Allison Blanck and sophomores Tiffany Cange and Esther Tirado are BSU's other three returning letterwinners from a year ago. Emilee Zets also returns as a redshirt sophomore after sitting out last season.
New to the team, but a familiar face to the Ball State track & field program, is fifth-year senior Thekla Lorenz who will compete in cross country for the first time in her collegiate career. Also joining the roster as freshmen are sisters in Caitlynn Edon and Courtney Edon, as well as Samantha Sheldon and Madelyn Webster.
"Starting this weekend with the Miami Invitational, our goal is to get better each meet," added Heisler. "The girls have been training really well and their base has been steadily increasing."Beginning with Saturday's meet, the Cardinals will have four races to prepare for the 2011 Mid-American Conference Championships which will be run at the Elks Country Club in Muncie, Ind., Oct. 29. The NCAA Great Lakes Regional follows Nov. 12 in Toledo, Ohio, while the NCAA Championships return to Terre Haute, Ind., Nov. 21.