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Red and White hit the road for Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota

Miami senior Jess Hoover competes during the Miami Invitational Sept. 13. Hoover won that race and is Miami's top runner this season.

Photo by Tyler Riggs, The Miami Student

By Grace Remington, For The Miami Student

The Miami University women's cross country team travels to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota this Saturday.

The RedHawks began their season with a strong start and haven't stopped since.

"I feel great. We're fit and excited to run," head coach Kelly Phillips said. "If we're going to be ranked in the nation, this is where we're going to do it."

This weekend brings the first opportunity for the 'Hawks to score the points needed to qualify for NCAA Regionals. Ideally, the team would like to achieve an automatic qualification at the end of the season for the Great Lakes region. However, they will still be able to enter Regionals as a wild card if they don't finish as region leaders.

Either way, the Red and White have their eyes focused on finishing big here in order to reach Nationals.

"The team is ready for a bigger challenge," senior Jess Hoover said. "We've had two smaller meets up until this point. Everyone is hungry for something bigger."

Miami has never competed at this course before. According to Phillips, about 100 teams are participating in this well-attended meet. Schools from both the Great Lakes region and other regions will make an appearance.

In meets this large, Hoover said it's important to go in confident.

"It's easy to get caught up and think 'Okay, there's really good teams here, maybe we belong in the back,'" Hoover said. "No. We can compete with the best teams. We belong in the front."

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The squad's flight for Minneapolis leaves Friday morning. Hoover says this will give them 24 hours to relax before the race.

Hoover sees traveling as more of a motivator rather than a stressor. Neither she nor Phillips thinks travel time will have a poor effect on the runners' performances.

"Traveling with your team is one of the greatest parts of college sports," Hoover said. "You get to go somewhere you've never been, hang out with your best friends, and do what you love."

Hoover added that though traveling adds an "interesting element to the mix," the older girls have grown accustomed to it.

"Virtually all the teams at this meet are traveling, we have to keep that in mind," Hoover said. "We're all in the same boat, so we're not making that an excuse."

Phillips expects to see Hoover joined at the top by fellow seniors Melissa Girgis, Anna Lamb, Elisa Frazier and junior Brenna Poulsen. Star freshmen Sarra Taylor and Alex Cameron will also be joining the veteran runners.

The Invitational is set to begin at 2:10 p.m. Saturday.