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Women's Cross Country/Track and Field

November 19, 2008

Ballinger looking for historic run

EVANSVILLE, Ind.A year ago, junior Mary Ballinger (Chesterton, Indiana) joined the likes of Jennifer Galbraith, Amy Roll, Nicole Shepler, Heather Cooksey, and fellow teammate Allison Shafer (Plainville, Indiana) on the University of Southern Indiana's list of women's cross country All-Americans.

Mary Ballinger

As Ballinger prepares to toe the line at the NCAA Division II National Championships in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, Saturday at 12:15 p.m. (CST), the two-time All-GLVC and All-Region competitor will have the opportunity to do something none of the fore-mentioned student-athletes have done: earn All-America honors for a second time on the cross country course.

Ballinger, who will compete as an individual Saturday, placed 17th at last year's national meet as she became the sixth women's cross country runner in school history to earn All-America honors. For Ballinger to make USI history, she will need to be one of the top 30 U.S. born runners.

And though Ballinger will be making a run for history, history is not what Ballinger is looking for Saturday. "In Mary's mind, becoming the first two-time women's cross country All-American at USI will be a nice memory," Head Coach Mike Hillyard said, "but she just wants to win. If she goes out and finishes 20th, she'll be an All-American, but she'll be disappointed."

That's due to the success Ballinger has had in the previous year. Last winter, Ballinger found out what it what it was like to run with the best when she surprised everyone with her second-place finish in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA II Indoor Track and Field Championships.

This fall, Ballinger has made "quantum" leaps in her times on the cross country course. "She's a lot better than she was last year," Hillyard said. "She knows she can run with anyone, especially after finishing second in 5,000 meters last year at the Indoor Championships."

And considering that Ballinger has been training well during the last week and a half, odds are USI will have its first two-time women's cross country All-American. "With Mary, its black and white," Hillyard explained. "If she's training well, she races fast. Not all athletes are like that."

With cold, snowy, wet conditions forecasted for Slippery Rock this weekend, it also helps that Ballinger has been able to train in the elements during the last week. "Going into regionals, we had not had a training day below 50 degrees and that affected us," Hillyard said. "Now we've had every training element possible in the last two weeks."

Dan McDonnell,
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