Ball State Cross Country ends season with top 5 Mid-American Conference Championship finish

<p>Ball State junior Cayla Eckenroth sprints to the finish first Oct. 18, 2019, at the Elks Country Club in Muncie. Eckenroth was followed by five other Ball State runners in the event. <strong>Eric Pritchett, DN</strong></p>

Ball State junior Cayla Eckenroth sprints to the finish first Oct. 18, 2019, at the Elks Country Club in Muncie. Eckenroth was followed by five other Ball State runners in the event. Eric Pritchett, DN

Ball State Cross Country finished No. 5 in Saturday's Mid-American Conference Championship — the team’s highest placing since 2007. Freshman Elka Machan led the Cardinals, placing fourth in the 95 runner race. Senior Cayla Eckenroth was not far behind, finishing 11th.

"Today was a really good day for us,” Ball State distance coach Sarah Pease said. “It feels good for our best race to be our last one."

The race ended up being the best of the shortened fall schedule, as several runners achieved personal records in the 6K race. Emma Cunningham, Karleigh Conner, Grace Dean, Cayla Eckenroth, Kylee Mastin and Emmalyne Tarsa all set PRs on the course, leading the Cardinals to their fifth-place finish.

Elka Machan highlighted the race, as her fourth-place finish led all true freshmen in the conference. She was the Cardinals' top finisher. 

“I didn’t expect it, but I was very happy with how it went today,” Machan said.

Machan’s performances this season earned her a spot on the MAC Women's Cross Country All-MAC First Team.

Senior Cayla Eckenroth also had a career race at her last MAC Championship. Finishing with a PR, Eckenroth earned All MAC-Second Team Honors for the second year in a row.

“I was nervous, but I knew I had fast teammates to help me through it, and I was super excited to run today,” Eckenroth said.

After a very unconventional start to the season, the Cardinals took some time to hit their stride.

“It was definitely a rocky start to the season, but I think that everyone just trusted Coach Pease and our training staff, so we knew we could turn it around to a good finish,” Eckenroth.

Coach Pease also shared similar beliefs.

"It shows that the team was prepared the whole time,” Pease said. “We kept talking about being ready and taking advantage of the opportunities we do have, and it feels good that we got it done.” 

After breaching the top five for the first time in 13 years, the Cardinals have a bright future ahead of them, with high aspirations for the upcoming season.

Contact Connor Granlund with comments at crgranlund@bsu.edu or on Twitter @connorgranlund.

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