Ohio - Coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season and a disappointing finish at
the Mid-American Conference Championship, the Miami University men's cross
country team is ready to start 2012 and erase last year's struggles. The good
news for the RedHawks is their entire 2011 squad returns with another year of
experience under their belt and a hunger to make sure last year doesn't happen
finished eighth out of nine teams at last year's league meet, the worst showing
by the RedHawks since before they even were RedHawks in 1989, when the Redskins
placed eighth. Prior to last year however, Miami had not finished worse than fourth
since 1996, all under 19th year head coach Warren Mandrell. Of the eight
'Hawks who ran at the MAC meet, four suffered injuries coming into or during
the season while it was the first league championship for five of the eight
last year was just an anomaly," Mandrell said. "Four of our top five guys had
major time off due to injuries during the season. And then the fact that we
were a very young team to start, that just put us in the hole."
last season in the rearview mirror, Miami now turns its attention to 2012 as
the RedHawks open their season Saturday at the Dayton Flyer 5K Challenge. The
men's race starts at 10:45 a.m. at Indian Riffle Park in Kettering, Ohio. The
RedHawks are the two-time defending champions at the meet and have captured the
top spot eight of the last nine years.
will face several local teams at the meet as, in addition to the host Flyers,
Cedarville, Urbana, Wittenberg and Wright State will all be competing, as will
Ohio State for the first time. The Buckeyes are ranked sixth in the Great Lakes
Region entering the season. Cincinnati was also scheduled to compete but due to
some injuries will no longer run.
can't place too much importance on it because one, it's a 5K, a little shorter
(than a normal race), and number two, it's so early in the season," Mandrell
said of the Dayton meet. "But it really gives you an idea of where your team is
competitive-wise, and if they run well there, then as long as they stay
healthy, you know you've got a good team. It'll be nice to have a race scenario
with all the new guys because practices and racing are completely different.
And if the young guys can race as well as they have been practicing then we'll
be in good shape."
the way for the RedHawks in 2012 will be senior Jarrod Eick (Hartville, Ohio),
who earned First-Team All-MAC honors last year after placing fifth overall at
the MAC Championship. He was Miami's top scorer in four races a season ago and
was the team's second finisher in the other three. Eick won the individual
title at the 2011 Flyer 5K Challenge and will look to defend his title this
year, while he also captured the Miami Open (Miami's home meet) individual
title the following week a season ago.
behind Eick is redshirt senior David Eichenberger (Plainfield, Ind.), who
battled through injury during the second half of the season and was Miami's
seventh finisher at the MAC meet. Prior to the injury however, he was the
overall runner-up as he led Miami to a team title at the LSU Invitational.
Eichenberger was a First-Team All-MAC performer in 2010, as he placed fourth
overall at the MAC Championship, showing what he's capable of when healthy. His
injury caused him to miss the entire 2012 track season as well and he's still
working his way back to his old form after just starting hard workouts again
think certainly that Jarrod has put himself in that position because he's been
running at the front of the workouts so far, and I assume he'll continue to be
like that," Mandrell said of his leaders. "I'm hoping that David will be there
near the end of the season, but in the early races you won't see him at the
same level. I think his fitness just hasn't caught up yet, but I know it can
and certainly will."
to step into the number two spot until Eichenberger returns to full strength is
redshirt junior Matt Marol (Evanston, Ill.), who adds a lot of experience and leadership as
well. He missed the first two races of 2011 with an injury, but scored in all
five races once he returned, including being Miami's third finisher at the MAC
meet. Junior Dave Wing (Naperville, Ill.) is another solid returner who was the
RedHawks' top finisher at two meets, including the Great Lakes Regional. He was
Miami's second scorer in his other three races, including taking 21st
at the league championship and third overall at the Flyer 5K Challenge, but
missed two races in the middle of the year with an injury.
fall Matt got off that injury and never really got back into where he was
supposed to be. Last spring he had a nice track season as he got fifth in the
MAC in the 10K. In that 10K he was leading late in the race, he just really
stuck his nose in there, and I think that gave him a really big confidence
boost and he's been doing that in practice," Mandrell said. "The same could be
said with (Dave) Wing."
out Miami's core of returning veterans is redshirt senior Brett Wagner (Toledo,
Ohio), who missed the first three races of 2011 with an injury. He came on
strong at the end of the year however, scoring third or fourth for the 'Hawks
in each of his final four races, including taking 53rd in his first
MAC Championship after first running cross country just a year earlier.
Redshirt sophomore Daniel Garleb (Pickerington, Ohio) will also provide solid
depth after scoring in six of seven races in his first year running for the
now, the major players seem to be looking pretty good," Mandrell said of his
experienced guys. "Our freshmen, some of them have made some real impact right
away and I think that not only helps us from a scoring standpoint, but it also
helps us with confidence and also keeping people honest in practice."
the freshmen who have impressed so far is Joe Stewart (Naperville, Ill.), who
was third in an acceleration run last Saturday and has been at the front of the
pack at practice most of the year so far. Mandrell noted Stewart has been very
competitive in the early going. Also in the mix to be in Miami's top seven is
newcomer Zack McBride (Painesville, Ohio), who was fourth in the acceleration
run, and Joe's twin brother, Matt Stewart (Naperville, Ill.). The RedHawks also
added transfer Steve Kiplagat (Iten, Kenya), who had a year of eligibility left
after graduating from Division III St. Lawrence University, where he placed 12th
at last year's NCAA Championship.
the Flyer 5K, Miami will face a tough test at the Commodore Classic, hosted by
Vanderbilt, Sept. 15 as several SEC schools will be in attendance. The 'Hawks
also compete at the All-Ohio Championships in late September and Pre-Nationals
Oct. 13, which serves as a tune-up for the MAC Championship Oct. 27 in Buffalo,
RedHawks were picked to finish seventh at the MAC Championship in the preseason
coaches poll released Wednesday, despite returning their entire squad while
adding more firepower. Defending champion Eastern Michigan was selected to
repeat in the poll while Central Michigan was tabbed second after finishing second last year as well.
goal with the team and the conference is that we're always one of the three or
four top teams, which we were up until last year, the first time we weren't in
that (top three or four) for a long time," Mandrell said. "Because if you're
legitimately a top three or four team, then you can think about winning. The
key for us will be staying healthy."
the MAC meet, Miami competes at the Great Lakes Regional Nov. 9 in Madison,
Wis. where the 'Hawks will fight to earn a berth in the NCAA Championship on
Nov. 17 in Louisville, Ky.