Runners travel to Ohio for MAC meet

Women finish second for third year in a row, Ritz places fifth.

Always bridesmaid, never the bride.

That would be a fitting description of the women's cross country team, which finished second at Saturday's Mid-American Conference Championships for the third year in a row.

Ball State finished with 62 points, 11 more than two-time champion Toledo and one less than third place Miami. The meet was held on Miami's home course in Oxford, Ohio.

While head coach Sue Parks was somewhat disappointed in being runner-up again, she was able to find a silver lining.

"This was still our best meet of the season," she said. "But we needed a great day and didn't quite have it. Toledo left the door open and we didn't capitalize.

"At Minnesota we were 127 points behind Toledo, and it was running without one of its top five. To close (the margin) to 11 when it was at full strength is somewhat of a miracle."

Stacey Ritz took fifth to pace the Cardinal runners, finishing the course in 17:48 to earn first-team All-MAC honors. Katie Nowak (17:56) and Crystal Meeks (17:57) placed seventh and eighth, respectively, to gather second-team honors.

Jill Scully (18:13) was 15th and Sarah Huddleston (18:30) 27th. Rounding out the BSU runners were Aubrey Gaffer (49th, 19:00), Nicole Hartford (62nd, 19:13), Linda Stebbins (71st, 19:19), Lindsay Keazer (87th, 19:42).

"The first three (finishers) were about where I expected," Parks said. "We just didn't get our fourth and fifth up high enough.

"I told them we needed to have five in the top 15, because we knew Toledo would pack it up front. We just didn't get it done."

The Rockets did pack it up front, with two-time champion Briana Shook (17:03) and Sara Vergote (17:21) grabbing the top two spots.

With the runner-up finish, Parks feels her team has laid a good foundation for the regionals in two weeks.

"With how we started the year, we could have thrown in the towel and been fourth or fifth, but we gave them a good race," she said.

"We've continued to improve, and we have two weeks to keep improving before regionals. I don't feel we've had our best possible race yet, so we need to keep the momentum going."


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