MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State cross country team opens its 2012 campaign at 6:30 p.m. Friday, when it travels to Bowling Green, Ohio, for the Mel Brodt Collegiate Opener. Joining the Cardinals at the meet will be host Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and two-time defending Mid-American Conference Champion Toledo.
"This will be a great first meet for both our upperclassmen and our incoming freshmen," said Ball State head coach Randy Heisler. "This meet will give us a chance not only to compete against the top team in the league, but also to see how far we have come along in the offseason."
After turning in an eighth place finish at the 2011 MAC Cross Country Championships, the program's best finish since the 2007 squad placed fifth, the Cardinals have their sights set on continued improvement this season.
"All of our runners have been putting in lot of work this preseason," said Heisler. "Our mileage has increased substantially and we are hoping to continue climbing up the MAC standings. Over the past two seasons, we improved three places from 11th to eighth at the MAC Championships. This season our goal as a team is to improve at least three more spots."
The Ball State squad returns its top two runners from last season in senior MaryKate Mellen (Michigan City, Ind./Michigan City) and sophomore Courtney Edon (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) who finished one-two for the Cardinals in three of the team's six meets a year ago.
"It's going to be interesting to see how our top five breaks down Friday," said Heisler. "We have a good idea of who are top runners are going to be from training, but that doesn't always pan out. Some runners excel more in a competitive atmosphere, and it's going to be exciting to see who steps up this weekend."
Also returning for Ball State are senior Emilee Zets (Berlin Center, Ohio/West Branch), senior Allison Blanck (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central), junior Esther Tirado (Dominican Republic/Lafayette Jefferson), sophomore Caitlynn Edon (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine), sophomore Samantha Sheldon (Bedford, Ind./Bedford North Lawrence) and sophomore Madelyn Webster (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg).
Added to the mix this season are three talented freshmen in Danielle Dahl (Chelsea, Mich./Chelsea), Katelyn Devries (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) and Kelly Swift (West Lafayette, Ind./West Lafayette)."Overall, I am very excited about our team this season," said Heisler. "This is the best chemistry our team has had since I have been here. It is a fun group to be around, and you can see they truly enjoy running."