Ball State track and field is coming back stronger than ever this season.

The Cardinals only lost a hand full of seniors and head coach Brian Etelman said 28 out of 35 runners on the roster are freshman and sophomores. The team will open the season at the Kentucky Invitational this weekend.

Etelman is excited to see what the team will bring and how prepared his athletes are from the offseason, but he does not expect much.

“We started training in August and spent the whole fall season preparing," Etelman said. "We are able to handle the load of the season, it is just about the sharpness, so we will look a little rusty through January, but it is not because we are not in shape or not prepared. We just spent four months training and not competing. It is a little slap in the face when you start to get rolling again.”

Etelman said the team will rely heavily upon the three returning Mid-American Conference champions this season in the form of juniors Peyton Stewart, Regan Lewis and Jazmin Smith. 

Stewart won the 100-meter dash at last season's MAC Championship and she said that the win is only giving her confidence going into the meet this weekend.

“It gives me a lot of confidence because I know where I was at and I know I can push the ceiling even more and create new goals, higher goals and bigger goals,” Stewart said. “So, it just makes me excited, very excited.”

Etelman said he thinks all of the throwers had a personal record at the December meet in Fort Wayne, so the throwers might be the group that steps up most this weekend.

“Our throw group, in Fort Wayne, did a really good job,” Etelman said. “I think all of them PR’d across the board and I think if there is a group that steps up the most, it is going to be the throwers.”

Along with the three returning champions and the early success shown by the throwing group, Etelman said the distance group runs its best on an indoor track compared to an outdoor track.

“Our distance group is better prepared for indoor track than they were for cross country and maybe outdoor track too,” Etelman said. “Because we had so much success in indoor last year, that triggered success for the outdoor season.”

Overall, Stewart said she thinks the team will do well this weekend, despite the four weeks off from winter break and it being the first meet of the new year.

“I am expecting us to compete very well,” Stewart said. “The dynamic of the team has changed for the better. Everyone is more competitive and really loves what they are doing, so I think it will be really competitive and really exciting.”

Ball State will travel to Kentucky to compete in the Kentucky Invitational on Friday Jan. 12-13. 

Contact Olivia Adams with comments at