OXFORD, Ohio - Facing its toughest challenge of the season, the Miami University women's cross country team returns to the course Saturday at Pre-Nationals, hosted by the University of Louisville at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park, in what serves as a final tune-up for the Mid-American Conference Championships in two weeks. The women's race begins at 10:15 a.m. following the men and is run on the same course that the NCAA Championships will be held in November.
The RedHawks will see their most talented competition of the year at Pre-Nationals as a total of 64 teams are entered in the meet while the field will be split up and run in two races. Miami will compete in the seeded Red Race, which consists of 39 teams that are all ranked regionally, while the Black Race has unseeded teams and only a few regionally ranked teams. The Red Race also features eight nationally ranked teams, including No. 1 Florida State, No. 4 Oregon, No. 6 Georgetown and No. 8 Michigan. Other nationally ranked teams include No. 17 William & Mary, No. 18 Colorado, No. 24 Villanova and No. 25 Butler.
Miami sits 10th in the latest USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region Poll while the 'Hawks will run against five other teams from the region in Saturday's meet as well. The Wolverines are the top team in the region while Butler is fifth. MAC rival Ohio is just ahead of Miami in ninth in the region and will run Saturday as will No. 14 Eastern Michigan. No. 13 Xavier is the other team from the Great Lakes Region competing in the Red Race. MAC foes Central Michigan, Akron, Toledo (B team) and Kent State will all run in the Black Race. To see the entire Red Race field, click here.
In the RedHawks' last outing at the Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational Sept. 29 in Chicago, Miami claimed third out of 51 teams with 121 points, finishing behind McMaster (Canada), who won with 105 points, and host Loyola-Chicago. Sophomore Jess Hoover (Hilliard, Ohio) was the team's top finisher for the third time in three meets this year, placing 13th while freshman Julia Valencia (South Lyon, Mich.) was right behind in 14th. Sophomores Alex Chitwood (Carmel, Ind.), Elisa Frazier (Williamsville, N.Y.) and Anna Lamb (Granville, Ohio) completed Miami's scoring five, all finishing in the top 35 overall while the entire scoring five finished within 25 seconds of each other.
Unlike the Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational, which was a 5K race, Pre-Nationals will be just the second 6K of the season for Miami. In the RedHawks' other 6K, the Spartan Invitational Sept. 14, redshirt junior Monica Fischer (Cincinnati, Ohio) was second on the team behind Hoover while freshman Brenna Poulsen (Indianapolis, Ind.) was the third finisher with Frazier and Lamb completing Miami's top five.
The RedHawks last ran at Pre-Nationals in 2009, when the team placed 20th out of 37 teams. None of the runners on this year's team ran in that meet, however.
Following this weekend's meet, Miami has a week off before heading to Buffalo, N.Y. for the MAC Championships, hosted by the University at Buffalo, on Saturday, Oct. 27.