As the top finisher for Ball State University in her four races this year, it is safe to say redshirt junior Ali Bishel carried the cross country team on her back.
Bishel will again be asked to deliver Saturday as the lone representative for her team in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional hosted by Indiana University.
"We are all excited about Ali and excited about her competing for BSU," coach Randy Heisler said. "People around the state are aware of her ability so it should be fun to watch."
Despite the team having the opportunity to compete at Regionals, Heisler decided to only enter Bishel into the mix.
"After not showing well at the [Mid-American Conference] Championships, I just thought going to Regionals would not benefit our program," Heisler said. "We would be running against even better competition and it wouldn't help our confidence."
The Regional location is on the same course Bishel ran during the Sam Bell Invitational in October. She finished sixth in the Invitational, running a 22:10 6K.
Heisler said he thinks this experience gives Bishel an edge over her other competitors.
"Most teams showed up early to prep the course before running," Heisler said. "Ali already knows the course and knows the hills so she will have a big advantage."
Heisler said Bishel winning the Regional is a realistic goal. If she can come out and set the pace, all the other runners will be out of energy by the end, he said.
To qualify for the NCAA National Championships on Nov. 23 Bishel will need a top-five finish among runners whose team does not finish in the top two.
With so many top runners competing in this Regional, Heisler thinks the little things will be the key to advancing.
"Within the first 800 meters you can always tell what kind of day Ali is having," Heisler said. "One percent difference in your performance determines the difference between finishing fourth and finishing first. Ali will be in the front group, so we will just see what happens."