OXFORD, Ohio – Saturday’s Miami Invitational will have many different meanings for the runners of Miami University’s cross country teams. For the women, who take off at 10 a.m., this is the initial opportunity of the season to show what they can do in competition.
For the men’s team, which runs at 10:45 a.m., this will be a chance to improve on last weekend’s times at the season-opening Dayton Flyer 5K.
Biggest of all however, the 2013 Miami Invitational marks the first time both teams will compete on the brand new Miami University Cross Country Course. It is also the only time the RedHawks will run at home this season.
The course, located on Bonham Road in Oxford just past (Northeast of) Yager Stadium, now serves as the teams’ new practice and competition route after losing their Western Campus course last year due to construction.
“Having the course, and being able to practice on it, as we will all year, that has been very nice,” men’s head coach Warren Mandrell said. “Last year we lost our course and we didn’t really have anything. Now it’s nice to have a dedicated facility for the team.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate the opening of the course will take place at 9:45 a.m. Saturday before competition, with cross country alumni Rachel Patterson (’11) and Don Kelly (‘55) serving as the ribbon cutters.
Patterson and Kelly won’t be the only alumni at this weekend’s meet, though.
Miami men’s and women’s alumni going back seven decades will be at the Miami Invitational, with many participating in the race on the alumni team. For Mandrell and women’s head coach Kelly Phillips, it will be exciting to catch up with the alumni and watch them race.
“The alumni team’s going to be good,” Phillips said. “They’re going to be really good because the ones that are racing graduated within the last year or two. They’re fit and they’ve been training, so there’s going to be some bragging rights going on. It’ll be fun to watch.”
Phillips and her team will start their year off at home this season, welcoming competitors from Capital University, Mid-American Conference rival Ohio University, Shawnee State University and runners from the Miami Striders, the University’s running club. Miami returns all its runners from last season except now alumna Monica Fischer, and has added freshmen Lauren Hoover, Jackie Mullins and McKenna Kiple to the roster.
The RedHawk women won the 2011 Miami Invitational, but due to construction on Miami University’s Western Campus last year, a one-year hiatus from the meet was taken.
Phillips says she expects Saturday’s meet to be challenging and fast-paced with both alumni returning to race and Ohio’s Juli Accurso, who finished 38th at the 2012 NCAA Championships last November.
“We’ll have a good idea of where we are early on this year,” Phillips said. “Where as in past years we’ve gone to more low-key meets, but we didn’t really know – we thought we were okay. So this will be a better indicator of exactly where we are because it’s a MAC team and people who have gone to the NCAAs.”
The men’s team will also take on runners from Capital, Ohio, Shawnee State and the Miami Striders Running Club, as well as Cedarville University at the Miami Invitational, after kicking off its 2013 season in Dayton last Saturday.
The RedHawks earned a third-place finish at the Flyer 5K Challenge with 53 points, trailing two-time victor Ohio State, which finished with 30 points, and IUPUI, which took second with 42 points. Senior Dave Wing ran an impressive season-opening performance, claiming runner-up overall in 15:39.0, garnering him MAC Runner of the Week honors. Redshirt senior Matt Marol was second for Miami and sixth overall, followed by freshman Stephen Biebelhausen, sophomore Matt Stewart and redshirt sophomore Ryan Moncrieff rounding out the RedHawks’ scoring five.
The Miami men won their own invitational in 2010 and 2011, and will attempt to win it again this weekend on their brand new home course.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new course will take place at 9:45 a.m. with the women’s race and men’s race to follow. Fans who plan on attending can park in the Fryman Parking Lot near the entrance of the course off Bonham Road (for GPS use 4951-5131 Bonham Road). Admission is free to the Miami Invitational.
Following the Miami Invitational, the men head to the Kentucky Invitational in Lexington next Saturday, Sept. 14, while the women travel to Bowling Green, Ohio for the Mel Brodt Collegiate Opener on Friday, Sept. 13.