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Cross Country faces in-state competition

By Patrick Keck, The Miami Student

After a week away from competition, the Miami University men and women's cross country teams look forward to their next contest Friday. This meet will feature universities residing within Ohio's borders, meaning the meet is critical not only for in-state bragging rights, but for recruiting as well.

Many elite Ohio high school runners will stay in-state to continue their education and running careers, so this race attracts their attention to Ohio's best collegiate programs.

However, cross country director Tom Chorny does not believe that Ohio State University, the University of Akron or the University of Cincinnati will be in attendance.

"This race will show how Miami stacks up with the smaller schools, so it should be good exposure for us," Chorny said.

Last year, the men finished third out of 46 teams. OSU dominated with a winning score of 39 points, placing four runners in the top 10. Akron would finish second with 75 points, due to a tiny 12-second gap between their first and fifth runners.

Without these teams, the 'Hawks would seem likely to have less trouble bringing home some more hardware than last year, but MU has big shoes to fill.

Two of Miami's top male runners last season, Joe Stewart and Zack McBride, graduated last spring. Stewart was last year's race winner in 24 minutes and 18 seconds, while McBride finished seventh.

Although the 'Hawks put two runners in the top ten, the large gap of one minute and 12 seconds between their first and fifth runners denied them the victory. Yet, so far this season, the men have appeared to work more as a team in their races.

"This year it is definitely going to be a lot closer between our teammates. We have a good group of seniors and freshmen and you're going to see a great result this week," senior and top returner Andrew Dusing said.

That group of freshmen was ranked in FloSports' 2016 NCAA Recruiting Class Rankings as the sixth best class in the nation.

"As much talent as they have, they have a lot of room to improve" Chorny said, "Many of them put in good work over the summer, and it shows as they are handling the volume of work well."

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Tiffin University's junior James Ngandu and Ohio University's senior Mike McKean look to be front runners this season. Ngandu competes for the Kenyan National Team and is arguably the best Division II runner in the country.

Last year, the Miami women duked it out with rival Ohio University, ultimately losing by only seven points to place second out of 47 teams.

Similar to the men, the women lost their two front runners from last year, Laura Bess and Brenna Poulsen, to graduation. In last year's all-Ohio meet, Bess finished third overall while Poulsen took seventh.

While the RedHawks must step up to replace last year's standouts, junior Maria Scavuzzo is excited by the youth of her team.

"It's awesome that our team is so young. A young team is one that has a lot of room for improvement, and we all try to help each other out in practices and races," Scavuzzo said.

The All-Ohio Championships are a big step in achieving Miami's season objectives, but the Mid-American Conference Championship in late October remains the RedHawks' focus.

"We are still progressing to the MAC Championships, where our races are more like workouts and are taken into our grand scheme of the training plan," Chorny said.

The All-Ohio Championships begin in Cedarville 2 p.m. Saturday with the Women's Championship 6K race, followed by the Men's Championship 8K race at 2:45 p.m.