Runner Cayla Eckenroth fights for the lead during the Butler Twilight meet at Northview Church on Sept. 1, in Carmel, IN. Ball State cross country will travel to Illinois State this weekend to compete in the Illinois State Invitational. Kyle Crawford, DN File
Cross country prepares for challenges at Illinois State Invitational
Ball State cross country will travel to Illinois State this weekend to compete in the Illinois State Invitational.
This will be the Cardinals' second weekend of competition, as it opened its season at the 5K Butler Twilight last Friday, where it took third place out of four teams and had two runners finish in the top three.
Ball State looks to improve this weekend, as its full roster will be in action.
“We are expecting to have our full line up compete this weekend, which I think will be more indicative of where we stand,” assistant coach Raynee DeGrio said. “Running against two conference opponents in Toledo and Northern Illinois will help us gauge where we are at and where we need to improve this season.”
Freshman Cayla Eckenroth led the Cardinals last week as she ran an 18:27.3 to take second place, while sophomore Hannah Cummings followed with an 18:49.9 to finish in third.
Although the Cardinals’ roster will look bigger this weekend, Eckenroth has no plans of changing anything as she heads into the weekend.
“I am really excited and confident going into this race with all of my teammates behind me and supporting me, but every race is pretty much the same and everyone has to adjust for every race,” Eckenroth said. “We have all been here and raced before. We just need to stay calm and be excited to be out there racing.”
Ball State will be challenged this weekend as they face tough competitors in Wisconsin, Illinois State and Loyola.
“Wisconsin is going to be there, whether or not they are running their full line up, they will be really competitive,” DeGrio said. “Illinois State has a really good team, as well as Loyola, so it will be a really good second meet and prepare us for the meets to come.”
Ball State will also be competing against some familiar faces alongside it as they face a pair of Mid-American Conference teams in Northern Illinois and Toledo. Northern Illinois finished second in the MAC Championship last year, while Toledo placed fifth.
“They are both really strong conference opponents,” DeGrio said. “If we have our goals set on being in the top four or five in the conference meet, we will have to beat one of those teams.”
After a third place finish last weekend, Ekenroth has high hopes for her team as it advances further into the season.
“I think everyone will try harder, because the whole group goal is to do better as a team,” Eckenroth said. “Racing with everyone here will be better because we will all push each other to be together and place as a team.”
Friday’s meet will start at 5 p.m. at Weibring Golf Club in Normal, Illinois.