Demetrius Lewis

The Ball State cross-country team has high hopes and expectations for the upcoming season.

"I hope last year was just a blip on the screen," coach Randy Heisler said.

The goal on everyone's list is to place higher in the Mid-American Conference championships than last season, when the Cardinals finished 11th. The MAC coaches expect more of the same from the Cardinals, however. In the preseason poll released Wednesday, Ball State was picked to come in 11th in the conference again.

Heisler remains confident.

"I think if these young ladies are confident and healthy, then expect us to be top three in the MAC," he said.

Six of the Cardinals top eight runners did not compete last year because of injuries.

The Cardinals are led by three seniors, two of whom did not compete last year. Ali Bishel is the lone senior who ran in 2009. She placed fourth at the MAC championships and advanced to the national championship meet.

"One of my personal goals for my senior is to be an All-American," Bishel said.

She said she hopes to beat her personal best time of 20:59.

The role of senior leadership is also placed on the shoulders of fellow senior runners Brittany Ade and Kelsey Nielsen.

"The seniors we have now are good leaders," Heisler said.

Though this weekend is the Cardinals' first meet of the season, the team has been working hard all year.

"Distance runners who succeed are not accidents," Heisler said. "It's hard work."

A majority of the cross-country team is on the track team as well. They run about 11 months of the year. Competing year-round can have a hard effect on the body, so doing everything possible to stay healthy is key to the team's conditioning.

"All the little things matter like icing, stretching and recovering too," Nielsen said.

The Cardinals' first competition of the year is this weekend at Purdue in the Great American Legends meet. The meet will include many of the larger schools that Ball State hopes to be competitive with this year.

Ball State will have plenty of chance to go up against some of the best teams in the nation when it travels to competitions at Notre Dame and Indiana State.

"This is the last time to do it big," Ade said. "You'd like the go up against and beat the big boys like IU and Purdue."