After taking first place in the We Fly Ball State Cross Country Challenge just two weeks prior, Ball State finished 7th out of 11 in the Cardinals’ first 6k race of the season at the Mel Brodt Collegiate Open at Bowling Green State University. Toldeo took first place.
In a sense, this served as a Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship preview as the event was held at the same location as the championship meet at the end of October. All MAC teams but Buffalo were a part of the event.
Head coach Adrian Wheatley said it is a great course, and for the individuals who have not seen the course, it was important for them to run on it to be prepared for the MAC.
“It was good to see them competing,” Wheatley said. “I am encouraged by where we are at.”
Even if he believes there are things to work on, Wheatley was encouraged by the direction Ball State is heading. Just as he said leading up to the season, Wheatley continued to harp on what he calls “The Big Show.”
“Everything is a dress rehearsal for the big show,” Wheatley said. “We truly believe it is an advantage to see the competition and to get an opportunity to see where the small things are, see where the check-in area is, where the warm-up area is, the start line, the finish line, the restrooms [and] all the logistical things that can help take away the game day jitters when it is championship time.”
Three Cardinals finished inside the top 30. Junior Sarah Mahnensmith led Ball State with a time of 21:54.1, earning 17th place.
Junior Shelby Christman finished in 24th place with a time of 22:07.7 and was closely followed by sophomore Carly Spletzer who came in 27th place with a 22:09.6 time. Junior Jessica Velez finished in 36th with a time of 22:41.0.
Wheatley said the Cardinals displayed a truly competitive mindset for it only being Sept. 15. He said he thinks Ball State is exactly where it needs to be and this will only help the athletes get better, something he feels like will build on the foundation already set in the program.
“Right now everything is a build. We are building for the season,” Wheatley said. “We will try to get sharp and ready when it is time for the MAC Championship. We are going to use each week as another opportunity to get better.”