Following last weekend Mid-American Conference Championships, only one challenge stands in the way of the Ball State cross country teams -- trying to make the NCAA national meet.
To do this, the Cardinals must qualify at the Great Lakes Regional meet in Ypsilanti, Mich.
The women's team poses the greatest threat, although Parks said chances of advancing the whole team to nationals is "slim," she also said that the meet promises to be an interesting one to see who brings their game faces.
"There are about eight teams, including us, that are about even," Parks said. "The meet is wide open. We could finish anywhere between third and tenth."
While Parks' goal is to advance the whole team, which she says is possible if everyone runs their absolute best, she at least wants to advance one or two women.
Juniors Katie Nowak and Stacey Ritz, All MAC first team selections who have been number one and number two all season, show the most promise. Nowak competed in nationals as a sophomore after finishing seventh at the regional meet.
"Everyone is really fresh and motivated, which is not always the case at the end of the season," Parks said. "We have concentrated on getting rested up and ready for the meet."
But the men's team -- with six younger team members running the meet -- Sprecher said senior Matt Bliss has the best shot at advancing nationally.
"He'd have to step up his game to another level," Sprecher said. "But if anyone advanced, he'd be the one to do it."
Bliss -- Ball State's No. 1 runner all season -- finished top for Ball State in the MAC Finals placing 18th, earning All-MAC accolades.
With the high caliber of teams and individual athletes competing in the Great Lakes Regional, which will be held in Terre Haute for the men's race,Sprecher said some nationally ranked teams will not advance.
Sprecher views this meet as a challenge but also as a building experience for his young squad. He feels the schedule the team has run against this year and the strength of the MAC has prepared them for a good run.
"We're not ready for a championship, but we're not going to back down against any of these nationally ranked teams. We've seen them all before," Sprecher said. "We might hit our bumps right now, but (our schedule) will make us better."