VERONA, Wis. - Saving its best performance for the final race of the season, the Miami University men's cross country team put on a gutsy showing to grab sixth place at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Friday afternoon at the University of Wisconsin's Zimmer Championship Course.
The RedHawks, who entered the meet ranked 12th in the region, totaled 214 points to earn sixth as Miami was the top Mid-American Conference team to finish among the eight in the field. The sixth-place regional showing matches Miami's best finish under 19th-year head coach Warren Mandrell, also placing sixth in 2003, when the 'Hawks were ranked 14th in the country, and in 1998, when Miami was 25th nationally.
Host and No. 6 Wisconsin won the 30-team race with 43 points while No. 12 Michigan was the runner-up with 73 points. No. 20 Indiana (107), Michigan State (113) and No. 28 Notre Dame (122) rounded out the top five, respectively. The RedHawks finished one point ahead of Purdue, which took seventh, while Ohio State, Butler and Indiana State, all of which were ranked ahead of Miami in the region, completed the top 10. Akron was the closest MAC school to Miami in 11th while MAC champion Eastern Michigan finished 13th.
The 'Hawks gradually worked their way through the field to get toward the front. Miami sat in 11th a fifth of the way through the race, moved up to 10th at the 4K mark, jumped to eighth over the next 4K before closing in sixth.
"This is a real cross country course, it's slower than people think but it suited our guys well," Mandrell said. "It had nice footing the whole way with lots of ups and downs."
Redshirt senior Steve Kiplagat (Iten, Kenya) earned All-Great Lakes Region honors by placing 25th as Miami's top finisher for the fourth time this year. The transfer from St. Lawrence garnered All-Region by finishing in the top 25 while clocking a time of 31:48 in the team's first 10K of the year.
Senior Jarrod Eick (Hartville, Ohio) closed out his tremendous cross country career as the second RedHawk to finish, crossing in 38th in 32:06, with his placing the best regional finish of his career by 24 spots. Junior Dave Wing (Naperville, Ill.) and redshirt sophomore Daniel Garleb (Pickerington, Ohio) were stride for stride with each other, nabbing 43rd and 44th place, respectively, both doing so in 32:15. The time was a 10K best for Garleb, who Mandrell noted had a very strong race.
Freshman Joe Stewart (Naperville, Ill.) rounded out Miami's scoring five, as he earned 64th place and clocked 32:33 in his first career 10K. He was the ninth freshman to finish in the difficult race of 204 runners.
"They really stepped up and ran well," said Mandrell, whose RedHawks tied for third at the MAC Championship two weeks ago. "We just needed one more place to put us in contention for an NCAA bid."
Redshirt senior David Eichenberger (Plainfield, Ind.), who has battled injuries the last two years, closed his cross country career by placing 76th in 32:48, marking a career-best regional finish and matching his 10K best time. Redshirt junior Matt Marol (Evanston, Ill.) completed Miami's top seven in 112th in 33:25.
Wisconsin and Michigan earned automatic berths into the NCAA Cross Country Championship Nov. 17 by finishing in the top two. Indiana, Michigan State and Notre Dame are all up for at-large consideration. The Badgers' Mohammed Ahmed won the individual title in 30:37 while IU's Zachary Mayhew took second in 30:43. The top four individual finishers from non-qualifying teams also advance to the NCAA meet. Kiplagat was seventh among runners not from the top five team finishers, likely putting him out of any at-large consideration.
The entire NCAA Championship field is announced Sunday. Miami's 2012 cross country season is now complete.