OXFORD, Ohio - Following a successful 2012 campaign, Miami University head men's cross country coach Warren Mandrell was named Ohio Men's Cross Country Division I Coach of the Year while freshman Joe Stewart earned Ohio Division I Freshman of the Year. The awards were announced by Shawnee State head coach Eric Putnam on Thursday after the results were tallied.
Mandrell, in his 19th year at the helm of the program, guided the RedHawks to a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 9 in a field of 30. Miami, which was the top Mid-American Conference finisher at the meet behind only Big Ten schools and Notre Dame, just missed qualifying for the NCAA Championship by one place. The RedHawks were the top Ohio school at the meet as Ohio State placed eighth. The sixth-place finish tied Miami's best finish at the regional meet under Mandrell, last doing so in 2003. Mandrell also led the 'Hawks to a tie for third with Akron at MAC Championship Oct. 27, finishing behind only Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan.
In addition to the two big meets at the end of the year, Mandrell helped Miami earn runner-up finishes at the season-opening Dayton Flyer 5K Challenge, the Commodore Classic Sept. 15, where the 'Hawks finished ahead of seven SEC schools, and at the All-Ohio Championships Sept. 29, as Miami finished just behind winner Cincinnati. Mandrell coached three RedHawks to All-MAC honors in redshirt senior Steve Kiplagat, senior Jarrod Eick and junior Dave Wing. Kiplagat also garnered All-Great Lakes Region accolades under Mandrell's tutelage.
Mandrell last earned Ohio Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2010.
"We had a great bunch of guys this year that made me look good. They worked hard, supported each other, and were tough as nails in races," Mandrell said. "It was a pleasure to come to practice every day and see the smiling faces of young men that love their sport. Our upperclassmen provided excellent leadership and the younger guys gave us a level of depth that we have rarely seen. I am already looking forward to next year."
Leading the charge next year will be Stewart (Naperville, Ill.), who capped a successful freshman campaign by earning his Ohio Freshman of the Year honor. Stewart ran in five races for Miami, scoring for the RedHawks in all five. He twice scored fourth for the 'Hawks at the All-Ohio Championships and Pre-Nationals and was the team's fifth scorer at his other three meets, including the MAC Championship and Great Lakes Regional. Stewart posted a season-best 8K time of 25:21.5 at Pre-Nationals but was consistent all year with his times not fluctuating more than 18 seconds in his four 8K races.
Stewart posted his best finish at the MAC Championship, placing 26th as the third freshman to finish and first from an Ohio team. He was then 64th out of 204 runners at the 10K Great Lakes Regional in 32:33 and was the ninth freshman to cross the line. His other finishes included taking 29th at the Commodore Classic, which featured seven SEC teams and multiple nationally ranked squads, and placing 30th at the All-Ohio Championships, where he was the top freshman finisher in the field.
"I was particularly proud of Joe Stewart this year, as he stepped in as a true freshman and immediately ran step for step with the veterans. He was fearless in his approach to both racing and practice, and knew only one gear: all out," Mandrell said. "It is not often that a freshman is able to make an impact with a top level team, but Joe was certainly able to do so. He has tremendous potential and it will be very exciting to watch his development."
Both awards, along with Runner of the Year, are voted on by the collegiate coaches at the 47 four-year colleges and universities in the state of Ohio who have a cross country team. The awards are presented by Ohio's cross country coaches in each NCAA division and both genders and are awarded at the following year's All-Ohio Championships. Criteria for the awards is strongly based on All-Ohio Championship results but also takes into consideration how an athlete or team does throughout the season, including conference and regional championships.
Kent State's Brad Heller was named Ohio Division I Men's Runner of the Year.