In the three years that head coach Jim Sprecher has been at Ball State, the men's track and field team has seen nothing but improvement. In his first year, the team finished eighth in the Mid-American Conference indoor meet, last year sixth, and this year fourth. So, Sprecher said that the team wants nothing more than to continue its steady rise to the top of the conference.
Coming off what Sprecher called one of the best meets of the year, the Cardinals have peaked at the right time, Sprecher said. The much-needed momentum going into the MAC meet has the Cardinals in their best position to make a run at MAC title than they have had in years.
"We have a lot of momentum coming out of the Billy Hayes Invitational," Sprecher said. "That and we are extremely healthy. Those two factors are big components at this time of the year."
Unlike last year when the team was relatively young, the Cards are led by 10 seniors. Two in particular have made profound impacts on the MAC during their tenure, Corey Eloms -- in the sprints and long jump -- and Zach Riley in the throwing events.
Eloms, who ranks in the top five in the league in the long jump, also anchors the 400-meter relay which he ranks No. 1 going into this weekend's four-day championship.
But it is Riley who served as an emotional leader for the team since his breakout season as a sophomore when he won his first MAC title in the hammer throw. He is looking to make it three-in-a-row as he is the top seed in his signature event. His season-best throw of 215-11 is a Ball State record and is also the seventh-best toss in the country.
Senior Bryan Troxell teams up with Riley in the throws, as he is the defending MAC champ in the javelin. He is ranked second in the MAC with a season-best throw of 205-1.
Despite the team's top-heavy throwers, Sprecher said the team's success is going to rely on the overall depth of the squad and maintaining a solid mental state for all four days.
"From top to bottom we are very balanced and even," Sprecher said. "But it is a long weekend. We have to keep our emotions in check and realize we can't spend it all on the first day. It's just like I told the team, this isn't a sprint to the title. It's a marathon."