By Grace Remington, For The Miami Student
After a two-week break, the Miami University men's and women's cross country teams return for the final stretch of the season. This weekend each team competes against 79 schools from around the country at the NCAA Pre-Nationals, hosted by Indiana State University.
Though at-large bids for NCAA Nationals are influenced more by an individual team's performance at NCAA Regionals, senior Dan Garleb believes a team's results at Pre-Nationals are still a "good indication" of its chances of qualifying for Nationals.
Women's head coach Kelly Phillips agreed.
"One of our goals is to beat as many other regional teams as we can in order to get as many at-large points as we can," Phillips said.
The races are split into two sections by times. There is a fast "blue" race and a slower "white" race. Miami women qualified for the blue race, while the men are running the white.
"This actually takes the pressure off of us," Garleb said. "Last year we finished 43rd in the blue race, so we were at the back of the pack, but this year I expect us to be up front."
Head coach Warren Mandrell is taking his most recent top seven finishers to the meet. He anticipates a strong race from junior Joe Stewart, who has been Miami's top runner in the last three meets.
After Stewart, however, Mandrell said he'll have to "roll the dice" to see who comes in next.
"They've been taking turns having good races, but I hope to have them all eventually do it at the same time," Mandrell said.
According to Mandrell, the group has been tight from the No. 2 through No. 7 positions, but there is a decent gap between this group and Stewart.
"If we're going to be really good, we need that gap between the number one and number two closed down," Mandrell said.
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For the women, Phillips expects a notable performance from senior Jess Hoover.
"Hoover by far has been our strongest leader all year," Phillips said.
Seniors Anna Lamb and Elisa Frazier, juniors Melissa Girgis and Brenna Poulsen and freshman Maria Scavuzzo also hope to contribute.
"We have a great pack, and that's key in a race like this," Phillips said.
Though beating teams from other regions is important in order to obtain points for an at-large bid, Phillips is focusing more on rival conference teams.
"We need to beat all other conference teams, and beat them by a good margin," Phillips said. "Toledo is our biggest competitor, and Eastern Michigan is also running really well right now."
Both RedHawk squads are excited to head into the most important meets of the season.
"We've been racing up to our potential during workouts," Garleb said. "I'm confident with our fitness level, so hopefully within the next few weeks we'll start racing faster."
Both races will take place in Terre Haute, Indiana Saturday. The women run at 11 a.m. and the men will start at 12:50 p.m.