By Grace Remington, For The Miami Student
Photo by Kim Parent
Both the Miami University men's and women's cross country teams will race in their lone home event of the season, the Miami Invitational, Saturday.
The women's squad is coming off a win at the Ohio Invitational, while the men are trying to bounce back from a third place finish at the Dayton Flyer 5k Challenge.
Both teams are eager for Saturday's race.
"We're pretty optimistic," junior Matt Stewart said. "We learned a lot from our first meet; we saw where everyone is at. I think we've gotten smarter."
Senior Jess Hoover, who was named the Mid-American Conference Runner of the Week, agreed.
"I personally will be shocked if our results aren't better than last week," Hoover said.
In last Friday's race, the women were forced to run in 95-degree weather, which negatively affected their performances. However, both Hoover and head coach Kelly Phillips said the team has recovered and are ready for the next competition.
Mid-American Conference rival Ohio University will be racing in both the men's and women's events. At last week's Ohio Invitational, OU's women's team narrowly lost to Miami by one point. The men's teams have yet to face each other.
On the men's side, OU returned all five of last season's scorers. Men's team head coach Warren Mandrell is wary about the opponent's "potentially very good" team.
Stewart is also aware of OU's potential, but believes his squad is prepared.
"Last year we lost to OU in this race, but this year we're ready," Stewart said.
The Miami women are even more fired up about extending their conference lead.
"When we see those green jerseys, we want to make sure we're hunting them down," Hoover said. "We need to treat this like a bigger meet. We want to see a pack of RedHawks at the front and keep that pack up there."
Phillips thinks it's important to increase the team's conference lead over OU for the sake of reaching the NCAA Championships at the end of this season.
"If they're as great as we think they are, and if they're trying to get into the NCAAs, we're going to have to beat them by a significant amount, not just one point," Phillips said.
Hoover and Stewart said their familiarity with the course will serve as an advantage.
"We do a lot of workouts on this course, so people know how they feel at different points on it," Stewart said. "People will know where to move up or where it gets hard. We can be more technical."
Phillips thinks the presence of a strong fan base will encourage the runners.
"Cross country isn't like hockey where everyone comes to watch," Phillips said. "We gain momentum just from being at home and having that fan support."
Hoover said another "fun motivator" will be having the alumni back in town.
"The alumni will be in the race too, and we don't want them to beat us," Hoover said.
For the men's team, Mandrell thinks the race will be very close between his runners.
"I don't have a good feeling of which guys are going to be the leaders … there's only a difference of 17 seconds between our number one runner and our number seven," Mandrell said. "I could see a whole bunch of different scenarios, but having that depth will be a strength of the team this year."
Junior Joe Stewart's first race of the season is at the home meet. He is returning to the course after sustaining an injury over the summer.
Senior Dan Garleb is another contender to watch. According to Mandrell, Garleb has had successful workouts and has been feeling better after his below-average performance in the last race.
As for the RedHawk women, seniors Anna Lamb, Mattie Moncayo and Hoover should pave the way alongside juniors Laura Bess and Brenna Poulsen. Senior Melissa Girgis will be racing for the first time this season.
Phillips also expects freshmen Alex Cameron and Sarra Taylor, who had strong debuts last week, to perform just as well Saturday.
"I'm hoping for this meet that instead of the top five we'll have the top 10," Phillips said.
The men's race is set to start at 9 a.m., and the women will begin at 9:30 a.m.