Conor Hockett

Before the 2007 season, Ball State University cross-country coach Randy Heisler didn't know Ali Bishel would be the number one runner on the team.

Two years and countless accolades later, Bishel is gearing up for her second NCAA Championship appearance.

"Getting into the championships is more nerve racking than actually being there," Bishel said. "I am excited to be here and compete with the best in the nation."

The championships are today in Terre Haute at noon.

This time around, Bishel is looking past the atmosphere and wants to assert herself more in the race.

"I am taking a more competitive mindset into the race this year," Bishel said. "I have a goal in mind, so we will see how everything plays out."

Heisler attributes this new competitive outlook to Bishel's maturity.

"Ali has matured both psychologically and physically as a runner," Heisler said. "She has gained a lot of experience and maturity comes with that."

Bishel will be running as the lone Ball State representative for the second race in a row.

"Going to the line by yourself and looking around to see no one wearing the same colors is pretty difficult," Bishel said. "You are accountable for five or six girls and so it can be really challenging sometimes."

With all her work throughout the season, Bishel knows she still has to come out and run her race.

"I come out to run and do not let the adrenaline take control of me," Bishel said. "I try and dig deep and think happy thoughts. I break it down and think about all of my preparation and practice."

With only nine days separating the Regional and National Championships, Heisler knows the time to prepare cannot be made up.

"The reality of the sport is someone wins and then there is everyone else," Heisler said. "We have done everything we can to be prepared. Once she starts running, Ali is either ready or she is not."