Looking to start its season on a high note, Ball State Cross-Country will head to Indianapolis for the Butler Twilight Invitational.

Since first competing in the meet in 2014, the Cardinals have never placed higher than third place out of the four teams. This year, with new runners and a new coach, hopes are high. 

“Honestly, I think we will do better than last year for sure," sophomore Cayla Eckenroth said. "I think everyone is really on top of things right now and focused and we are all ready. I think we will do really good as a team, and I think we will work together.”

 Last season, the Cardinals narrowly missed second place by five points to IUPUI. While the team has not placed highly in the last few years, assistant coach Rachel McFarlane said this year will be different. 

“I think some of the girls are going to surprise themselves with their fitness and hopefully,” McFarlane said. “We will be in a better spot going into every race and after every race than we were last year and keep building on that.”

Eckenroth is expected to lead the team again, given her second place finish at the meet last season. Junior Maritza Rodriguez, another top runner, placed eleventh. Like Eckenroth, Rodriguez is planning for a strong start to the season.

“My goal is to not do any worse than last year, because that means I will being taking steps forward,” Rodriguez said. “At the end of the day, I am really just trying to focus on myself and the team."

While the team’s immediate focus is on Butler, the strength of the overall season isn’t far from their minds. Last season, the Cardinals finished in 11 place out of 12 teams in the MAC. Earlier this season, Rodriguez spoke about the team’s goal of winning a MAC Championship.

She acknowledged it might be a tough task, but big dreams are their motivation, so they are focusing on the MAC Championship meet at the end of October.

“Our sport psychologist told us that we shouldn’t be ready by the first meet. It’s all about MAC, and we don’t want to burn out at the end of the season,” Rodriguez said. “It’s all about people having a good step forward, but I don’t think it needs to be our best, because all we care about is MAC.”

The Butler Twilight Invitational will commence Friday at 6:45 p.m.

Contact Olivia Adams with any at omadams@bsu.edu or on Twitter @olivia_adams5