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Women's Cross Country/Track and Field

March 05, 2008

Cooksey, Ballinger heading to nationals

EVANSVILLE, Ind.—Senior Heather Cooksey (Brownsburg, Indiana) and sophomore Mary Ballinger (Chesterton, Indiana) both made the cut to compete in the 5,000 at the NCAA II Indoor Track and Field Championships March 14-15 in Mankato, Minnesota.

Heather Cooksey

Mary Ballinger

Cooksey ranks third in the 16-competitor field with a time of 17 minutes, 5.05 seconds, while Ballinger is seventh with a time of 17 minutes, 13.58 seconds.

"I am very excited that we will finally be able to get Heather and Mary together on the track for a 5K," Head Coach Mike Hillyard said. "As it turned out, both Heather and Mary ran their qualifying marks in a situation where they were running well clear of the field and lapping multiple competitors.

"They are the only two qualifiers in the top 10 who actually won their races, and the only two in the top 10 who ran their qualifying marks on a flat 200-meter track—which is traditionally slower than a banked or oversized track," Hillyard explained. "This bodes well for them as the meet will be contested on a flat 200-meter track this year."

This marks Cooksey's 10th trip to an NCAA II Championship meet in her career. She is a 10-time All-American in track and cross country and became USI's first female national champion when she took home gold in the 3,000 meters at the 2004 NCAA II Outdoor Championships.

Cooksey has three All-America awards in indoor track, the most recent coming in 2005 when she finished fourth in the 5,000 meters, while helping USI's distance medley relay team to a fifth-place finish. She was third in the mile at the 2004 NCAA II Indoor Championships.

Ballinger is making her second trip to a national meet after earning All-America honors in cross country this past fall. Although Ballinger's first provisional time of 17 minutes, 25.99 seconds would have been enough to qualify, her league-record time at the GLVC Championships last weekend moved her into the top 10 of the field and put any doubt to rest on whether or not she would be competing in Minnesota next week.

The women's 5,000 meter run will take place March 15 at 6 p.m. at Minnesota State University, Mankato's Myers Field House.

Dan McDonnell,
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