By Melissa Maykut

OXFORD, Ohio - When the 2012 Miami University men's cross country team opens its season Saturday at the Dayton Flyer 5K Challenge, there will be several new faces in the field as head coach Warren Mandrell has added eight newcomers to the lineup. In addition to the distance runners, the RedHawks bring in seven other young men who have been recruited for the 2012-13 track and field team.

The eight new cross country runners consist of freshmen Matthew Dietrich, Zack McBride, Matthew Pelletier, Patrick Santino, twins Joe Stewart and Matt Stewart and Nick Vogele, as well as redshirt senior Steve Kiplagat, who will work on his master's degree while at Miami. Four distance runners hail from Ohio while three come to Oxford from Illinois with Kiplagat a native of Kenya. All have the ability to push the 'Hawks to new heights this season with their fresh legs and strong stamina.

"We feel this class of newcomers is very talented, especially on the distance side, and can really contribute for us this season," Mandrell said. "I expect both our distance runners and track and field guys to push our upperclassmen during the year."

McBride, a graduate from Riverside High School in Painesville, Ohio, has already made a name for himself. He was a two-time state finalist in the 1600m run with a best time of 4:19 and was an Ohio All-State cross country runner. Pelletier, a two-time All-State cross country runner from Berkshire High School and Burton, Ohio, placed second and third in the 3200m run at the Ohio Division III State Championship the last two years, respectively, with a best time of 9:25.

Santino, a graduate from St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, clinched second place in the 3200m at the Illinois Indoor State Championship when he finished with a time of 9:17. The Stewart brothers join the Miami cross country squad from Naperville, Illinois. Before graduating Metea Valley High School, Joe placed sixth in the 3200m at the Illinois Outdoor State Championship while Matt qualified for the same event with a best time of 9:28 and made the Illinois State Cross Country meet.

Vogele comes to Miami from Cincinnati with an impressive reputation, nationally ranked in both the 1600m run with a personal best of 4:12 and the 3200m run with a best time of 9:01. The Anderson High graduate's 3200m time would have scored at the MAC Indoor Championships if converted to 3000m. Dietrich, a native of Broadview Heights, Ohio who attended Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School, finished sixth in the 1600m race at the Ohio Division I Indoor Championships.

The final addition to the cross country team this season is Kiplagat. A transfer from St. Lawrence University after finishing his undergraduate degree last year, Kiplagat placed 12th at the 2011 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship with a time of 24:29, which would have placed him in the top five at last year's MAC Championship.

Along with the distance runners, Mandrell has added freshmen Jason Bailey, Adam Bodrick, Joey Comisford, Paul Golen, Jacob Hensh and Peter Stefanski to the track and field team.

Bodrick placed fourth at the 2012 Ohio Division I Outdoor State Championships in the 400m run with a time of 48.92, which would have scored at last year's MAC meet. Comisford anchored Granville High School's fourth place 4x400m relay team at the Ohio State Championship with a time of 48.3. He also ran a time of 1:54.06 in the 800m, which was the sixth-best time in Ohio in Division I.

Hensh, who attended Laurel Highlands High, finished second in the pole vault with a clearance of 15-6 at the Pennsylvania State Indoor Championship. His vault would have scored in this past season's MAC Championship. Stefanski, a graduate of Marmion Academy, comes to Miami with an impressive record, ranking in the top 10 in the country for his high jump of 7-0 at his sectional. The Glen Ellyn, Ill. native also placed second in the high jump at the Illinois Outdoor State Championship with a leap of 6-10, which would have tied him for first at the MAC Championships. Stefanksi competed at the U.S. Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships in June, as well, taking fifth in the high jump.

Bailey placed third in the 60m dash at the Ohio Division I Indoor Championships while Golen qualified in both the shot put and discus at the Illinois State Meet.

The RedHawks return their entire cross country team from 2011 and only bolster their lineup with the eight new additions while the six track and field athletes will add to a strong contingent returning from Miami's 2012 track and field team that boasted two individual MAC champs and placed sixth overall.