Sept. 2, 2011

OXFORD, Ohio - When the Miami University women's cross country team opens its 2011 campaign Saturday at the Dayton Flyer 5K Challenge, there will be several new faces representing the RedHawks. The women's race begins at 11:15 a.m. at Indian Riffle Park in Kettering, Ohio while Miami's men's team will also be in action and precedes the women's race at 10:45 a.m.

Not only did Miami lose its core group of runners from the past four years in NCAA qualifier and three-time All-MAC performer Rachel Patterson and two-time All-MAC performers Katie Lenahan and Amanda Mirochna to graduation, but the `Hawks will also be resting their top returning runners Saturday, such as seniors Maggie Bingham (Carmel, Ind.), Jillian Dickman (Madison, Ohio) and Kelley Miller (Dublin, Ohio), as well as sophomore Kate Carter (Ann Arbor, Mich.), so they can run at Miami's home meet next Saturday. With so many familiar faces either graduated or watching from the sidelines, several of Miami's freshmen and sophomores will have a chance to shine.

"The big thing is to see where our new people are and to give some of our other upperclassmen a chance to be in scoring position," head coach Kelly Phillips said of resting her top returning runners. "It's good because we've run the Flyer 5K so many times I can compare times and see where people are and then give them the opportunity, if they don't have the upperclassmen to follow, to see how they do on their own."

The RedHawks are opening the season at the Flyer 5K for the eighth straight year and are the four-time defending champions. Last year, Patterson won the race to lead Miami while Mirochna was third overall and Bingham finished fifth. With none of them running Saturday, the top returning RedHawk expected to compete will be junior Danielle Dickman (Vernon Hills, Ill.), who was 21st overall last year. Miami will be running against the host Flyers at the meet, as well as Ashland, Cedarville, Cleveland State, Findlay, IUPUI, Morehead State, Ohio Valley, Rio Grande, Shawnee State, Wittenberg and Wright State.

Following the Flyer 5K, the RedHawks host the Miami Open Saturday, Sept. 10 on Miami's Western Campus, where Bingham, Jillian Dickman, Miller and Carter will make their season debuts.

Below is a season preview of the 2011 Miami women's cross country team.

2011 Women's Cross Country Season Preview

After a four-year stretch of finishing in the top three at each Mid-American Conference Championship, including winning the program's first two MAC titles in 2008 and 2009, the 2011 Miami University women's cross country team will be looking to replace the group that gave the `Hawks their recent success. Gone is NCAA qualifier and three-time All-MAC performer Rachel Patterson and two-time All-MAC performers Katie Lenahan and Amanda Mirochna, all of whom graduated.

Even with the departure of the big three, the cupboard is hardly bare for the RedHawks, who still return three of its top five scorers from both the 2010 MAC Championship and Great Lakes Regional and were still predicted to finish second at the 2011 MAC meet in the preseason poll. Leading the way will be senior Kelley Miller (Dublin, Ohio), who was a Second-Team All-MAC performer a year ago, when she was Miami's third finisher at the league championship, crossing in 13th place. The fifth-year senior was also the fifth RedHawk finisher at the Great Lakes Regional a year ago and scored in all six meets for Miami.

Right behind Miller is senior Maggie Bingham (Carmel, Ind.), who may end up being Miami's top runner when everything is said and done. Bingham is a two-time Second-Team All-MAC honoree, as she was the second RedHawk to finish at the 2010 MAC meet, behind Patterson, placing 11th overall. She took 14th overall at the 2009 league championship to help Miami win its second straight title. Bingham also performed well at the 2010 Great Lakes Regional, as she is the top returner from that meet as well, where she placed 34th overall also as the second `Hawk to finish. Like Miller, Bingham scored in every meet last season.

"Miller is really ready, despite typically being a track girl. Having her step up is huge, since she has trained well over the summer," head coach Kelly Phillips said. "And Maggie, typically when it comes to conference time, is always ready. She does well at the big meets. Those are the big two that will help carry us forward."

A third senior, Jillian Dickman (Madison, Ohio), will also provide depth and experience and will be counted on in Miami's scoring five. She was the seventh RedHawk finisher in each of her first four meets last year, but scored as Miami's fourth finisher in both the MAC Championship and Great Lakes Regional, placing 18th overall at the league meet.

Rounding out Miami's group of returning scorers is sophomore Kate Carter (Ann Arbor, Mich.), who had a strong freshman campaign. She finished in Miami's scoring five twice, including helping the RedHawks win the All-Ohio Championship as the third `Hawk to finish. Carter was Miami's sixth finisher in her other four meets, including taking 27th overall in her first MAC Championship.

The RedHawks also bring in eight freshmen in 2011, several of which will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact in their first year. Leading the pack of newcomers is Jess Hoover (Hilliard, Ohio), who has been right behind Miller in preseason practice. Alex Chitwood (Carmel, Ind.), who Phillips was counting on more as a track girl, has also performed well early. The biggest surprise however, according to Phillips, has been Elisa Frazier (Williamsville, N.Y.). All three will be looked upon to provide depth in 2011 and will have the chance to be in Miami's scoring five.

"Jess has really kind of dominated the front. She's been running with Maggie. Alex really trained hard this summer and Elisa is just tough. Those three are really doing well," Phillips said. "Overall, our freshmen are doing an awesome job so far and I can't wait to see them run that first weekend."

Two other RedHawks who will be in the running to finish among Miami's top seven are freshman Mattie Moncayo (Lexington, Ohio) and junior Danielle Dickman (Vernon Hills, Ill.). Dickman, who transferred from Eastern Illinois two years ago, ran in last year's season-opening Flyer 5K challenge, where she was Miami's eighth finisher, but missed the rest of the year with an injury. If she can stay healthy, she will be another solid contributor with some experience.

"I don't think we have the seniority or the talent of someone like Rachel Patterson that can hammer the front, but as an overall team, we may be a stronger team than the team last year," Phillips said.

The RedHawks run the exact same schedule they did a year ago, which included wins at the Flyer 5K Challenge and the All-Ohio Championship. Phillips said the same schedule allows the girls to be familiar with the courses and also for her to compare times from the previous year. Highlighting the schedule is Miami's lone home meet, the Miami Open on Sept. 10, and the Penn State National meet, which allows the `Hawks to run against teams outside their region.

All the meets and training lead up to the MAC Championship on Oct. 29, which is hosted by Ball State in Muncie, Ind. Miami finished a disappointing third a year ago behind champion Toledo and Central Michigan, but is still expected to be the prime contender to dethrone the Rockets, who return nearly their entire team from last year's championship squad, including two-time individual champion Ari Fisher.

Following the MAC meet, Miami heads to the Great Lakes Regional, hosted by Toledo on Nov. 12, when the RedHawks will look to qualify for the NCAA Championship. The top two finishing teams at each regional advance to the Nov. 21 NCAA Championship while 13 at-large teams from the regionals also qualify.

"For us to qualify for the NCAAs, we will have to bring up our fifth through eighth runners. We have a really good four right now. Probably the only way for us to go as a team is it would have to be a really good day for us. We are talented enough, I'm just not sure if we are old enough," Phillips said. "In the next couple of years, if this team stays together, they will be pretty darn good in two years because they are a really good group."

--MURedHawks.com--