Led by a 29th-place finish by freshman Jesse Davis, the men's cross country team struggled to ninth at Saturday's Mid-American Conference Championships in Oxford, Ohio.
Seventh-ranked Central Michigan nipped sixth-ranked Eastern Michigan 39-40 for the team title. The Chippewas were aided when the Eagles' Boaz Cheboiwyo, last year's NCAA individual champ, temporarily ran off-course while far ahead in first. Cheboiwyo finished 16th, resulting in a possible 15-point loss for Eastern.
As for Ball State, assistant coach Jim Trautmann said it was a disappointing race in some ways, but a positive in others.
"Finishing ninth was disappointing, but we were only 48 points out of fourth," Trautmann said. "One of our regular top five (Terry Goodspeed) didn't race, and that could have made up a lot of those 48 points.
"Our athletes competed well. Every one of our top five had personal bests. Looking at it, we still ran well, and we have a shot at some of those teams (Ohio, Toledo, Buffalo, Kent State) in regionals."
Besides Davis, the top five consisted of Steve Samuel (40th, 25:45), Sal Impelliterri (43rd, 25:48), Aaron Hoover (53rd, 26:09) and Michael Olson (59th, 26:24). Also running for the Cards were Kyle Hinkelman (60th, 26:24), Steve Schilling (72nd, 26:55) and Zach Scherer (83rd, 27:27).
Trautmann said that some upperclassmen will have to step up more if the Cardinals are to do better at regionals.
"Our young guys are stepping up, but our juniors aren't doing that enough, and we need them to take that step," he said. "Finishing ninth was far from our goal, and being close isn't enough. The MAC is too good for that."