By Grace Remington, For The Miami Student
After a two-week break, the Miami University men's and women's cross country teams travel to Madison, Wisconsin to compete in the Great Lakes Regional Championship Friday.
Though both head coaches had hoped for this meet to be a more pivotal moment during the season, they are not taking it lightly.
"A [NCAA National Championship] bid is not out of the picture," women's head coach Kelly Phillips said. "It depends on what we're capable of. If we bring it all together, it's definitely possible."
Both teams are returning to action after disappointing finishes at the Mid-American Conference Championships. The women's squad had planned to repeat as MAC champions, but placed third. The men finished seventh out of nine schools.
Phillips said her runners now have a new motivation after being "humbled" at the MAC meet.
Going into regionals, the women's team is ranked 10th out of 34 schools. Despite her lofty goals, Phillips realized that with a ranking like this, she still has to be realistic.
"The main goal is to just leave higher than you came," Phillips said. "We're capable of making the top seven."
Senior Jess Hoover has an even bigger goal. Though it will be difficult for her entire team to achieve a bid to nationals, she can obtain an individual berth. A top 20 finish will make the bid hers.
"She's more than capable of it," Phillips said. "She just needs to race hard and she should be right in it."
University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin and Ohio State University are the teams to watch. According to Phillips, they are consistently ranked in the top 20 nationwide and bring solid packs to the course.
"This is a tough region, which makes it great," Phillips said. "It makes you better."
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The men's team seems to be taking a different approach to the race.
Due to weak performances at the MAC Championship, head coach Warren Mandrell is using regionals has an opportunity to run some of his younger players. His roster includes four freshmen and two sophomores.
"Some guys underperformed at MAC, so I figured let's let some of the other guys run, since the usual runners didn't deserve it anymore," Mandrell said.
In a race of this caliber, Mandrell wants the younger runners to gain valuable experience for future seasons. For many of the new athletes, it will be their first 10K.
However, the men's squad does have a high achiever, similar to the women's team. Junior Joe Stewart is also vying for a bid to nationals. After carrying the Red and White in almost every meet so far, he hopes to finish in the top 25, making the All-Great Lakes Region Team.
Several Big 10 Conference schools, the University of Notre Dame and Wisconsin are included in the field of 34 teams.
"It's a pretty darn good field," Mandrell said. "It's a big time race. I just want to finish as a group. And we'll finish somewhere in the middle, I'm sure."
The women's race is set for noon Friday, and the men's begins at 1 p.m.